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Is the Equalizing Effect of Retirement Wealth Wearing Off?

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  • Edward N. Wolff

Abstract

Retirement wealth is often viewed as a great equalizer, offsetting the inequality in standard household net worth. One of the most dramatic changes in the retirement income system over the last two decades has been a decline in traditional Defined Benefit (DB) pension plans and a sharp rise in Defined Contribution (DC) pensions. Using data from the Federal Reserve Board's Survey of Consumer Finances, I find that retirement wealth (the sum of pension and Social Security wealth) has a considerably weaker offsetting effect on wealth inequality in 2001 than in 1983. Whereas standard net worth inequality increased modestly between 1983 and 2001, the inequality of augmented wealth (the sum of retirement wealth and net worth) surged from 1983 to 2001, very much in line with income inequality. Moreover, whereas median net worth climbed substantially from 1983 to 2001, median augmented wealth actually fell over this period.

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  • Edward N. Wolff, 2005. "Is the Equalizing Effect of Retirement Wealth Wearing Off?," Economics Working Paper Archive wp_420, Levy Economics Institute.
  • Handle: RePEc:lev:wrkpap:wp_420
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    Cited by:

    1. Robert Buchele & Douglas L. Kruse & Loren Rodgers & Adria Scharf, 2010. "Show Me the Money: Does Shared Capitalism Share the Wealth?," NBER Chapters,in: Shared Capitalism at Work: Employee Ownership, Profit and Gain Sharing, and Broad-based Stock Options, pages 351-375 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Timm Bönke & Markus M. Grabka & Carsten Schröder & Edward N. Wolff, 2017. "A Head-to-Head Comparison of Augmented Wealth in Germany and the United States," SOEPpapers on Multidisciplinary Panel Data Research 899, DIW Berlin, The German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP).
    3. Edward N. Wolff, 2006. "The Adequacy of Retirement Resources among the Soon-to-Retire, 1983-2001," Economics Working Paper Archive wp_472, Levy Economics Institute.
    4. Heather Boushey & Christian E. Weller, 2006. "Inequality and Household Economic Hardship in the United States of America," Working Papers 18, United Nations, Department of Economics and Social Affairs.

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