IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/p/mrr/papers/wp019.html
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Wealth Accumulation in the U.S.: Do Inheritances and Bequests Play a Significant Role?

Author

Listed:
  • John Laitner

    (University of Michigan)

Abstract

This paper formulates an overlapping generations model with both life–cycle saving and altruistic bequests. For a given distribution of earning abilities, the model generates a stationary steady–state capital–to–labor ratio for the economy as a whole and a stationary distribution of net worth among households. We calibrate the model, using the 1995 Survey of Consumer Finances to fix the distribution of earning abilities, and using total 1995 U.S. wealth and Federal estate tax revenues to fix other key parameters. The analysis specifies its version of the Federal estate tax in detail, estimating the empirical degree of tax avoidance. Simulations show that the model can reproduce the high degree of wealth concentration evident in U.S. data. Most surprisingly, the analysis also suggests that the U.S. economy’s steady–state capital–to–output ratio will be insensitive to changes in the national debt and social security.

Suggested Citation

  • John Laitner, 2001. "Wealth Accumulation in the U.S.: Do Inheritances and Bequests Play a Significant Role?," Working Papers wp019, University of Michigan, Michigan Retirement Research Center.
  • Handle: RePEc:mrr:papers:wp019
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: http://mrdrc.isr.umich.edu/publications/Papers/pdf/wp019.pdf
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Becker, Gary S, 1974. "A Theory of Social Interactions," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 82(6), pages 1063-1093, Nov.-Dec..
    2. Attanasio, Orazio P & Browning, Martin, 1995. "Consumption over the Life Cycle and over the Business Cycle," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(5), pages 1118-1137, December.
    3. Modigliani, Franco, 1988. "The Role of Intergenerational Transfers and Life Cycle Saving in the Accumulation of Wealth," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 2(2), pages 15-40, Spring.
    4. Kotlikoff, Laurence J & Summers, Lawrence H, 1981. "The Role of Intergenerational Transfers in Aggregate Capital Accumulation," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 89(4), pages 706-732, August.
    5. Charles T. Carlstrom & David Altig, 1999. "Marginal Tax Rates and Income Inequality in a Life-Cycle Model," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(5), pages 1197-1215, December.
    6. Barro, Robert J, 1974. "Are Government Bonds Net Wealth?," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 82(6), pages 1095-1117, Nov.-Dec..
    7. Bernheim, B Douglas & Shleifer, Andrei & Summers, Lawrence H, 1986. "The Strategic Bequest Motive," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 4(3), pages 151-182, July.
    8. David Altig, 2001. "Simulating Fundamental Tax Reform in the United States," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(3), pages 574-595, June.
    9. Laitner, John & Juster, F Thomas, 1996. "New Evidence on Altruism: A Study of TIAA-CREF Retirees," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(4), pages 893-908, September.
    10. James B. Davies, 1982. "The Relative Impact of Inheritance and Other Factors on Economic Inequality," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 97(3), pages 471-498.
    11. Davies, James B, 1981. "Uncertain Lifetime, Consumption, and Dissaving in Retirement," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 89(3), pages 561-577, June.
    12. Modigliani, Franco, 1986. "Life Cycle, Individual Thrift, and the Wealth of Nations," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 76(3), pages 297-313, June.
    13. Laitner, John, 1992. "Random earnings differences, lifetime liquidity constraints, and altruistic intergenerational transfers," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 58(2), pages 135-170, December.
    14. Bernheim, B Douglas & Bagwell, Kyle, 1988. "Is Everything Neutral?," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 96(2), pages 308-338, April.
    15. Altonji, Joseph G & Hayashi, Fumio & Kotlikoff, Laurence J, 1997. "Parental Altruism and Inter Vivos Transfers: Theory and Evidence," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 105(6), pages 1121-1166, December.
    16. Solon, Gary, 1992. "Intergenerational Income Mobility in the United States," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 82(3), pages 393-408, June.
    17. Laurence J. Kotlikoff, 1998. "Simulating the Privatization of Social Security in General Equilibrium," NBER Chapters, in: Privatizing Social Security, pages 265-311, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    18. Loury, Glenn C, 1981. "Intergenerational Transfers and the Distribution of Earnings," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 49(4), pages 843-867, June.
    19. Benjamin M. Friedman & Mark J. Warshawsky, 1990. "The Cost of Annuities: Implications for Saving Behavior and Bequests," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 105(1), pages 135-154.
    20. Becker, Gary S & Tomes, Nigel, 1979. "An Equilibrium Theory of the Distribution of Income and Intergenerational Mobility," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 87(6), pages 1153-1189, December.
    21. Laitner, John, 2001. "Secular Changes in Wealth Inequality and Inheritance," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 111(474), pages 691-721, October.
    22. Browning, Martin & Hansen, Lars Peter & Heckman, James J., 1999. "Micro data and general equilibrium models," Handbook of Macroeconomics, in: J. B. Taylor & M. Woodford (ed.), Handbook of Macroeconomics, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 8, pages 543-633, Elsevier.
    23. Hall, Robert E, 1988. "Intertemporal Substitution in Consumption," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 96(2), pages 339-357, April.
    24. Gokhale, Jagadeesh & Kotlikoff, Laurence J. & Sefton, James & Weale, Martin, 2001. "Simulating the transmission of wealth inequality via bequests," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 79(1), pages 93-128, January.
    25. Benjamin M. Friedman & Mark Warshawsky, 1985. "The Cost of Annuities: Implications for Saving Behavior and Bequests," NBER Working Papers 1682, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    26. Wolff, Edward N, 1996. "International Comparisons of Wealth Inequality," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 42(4), pages 433-451, December.
    27. James M. Poterba & Scott Weisbenner, 2000. "The Distributional Burden of Taxing Estates and Unrealized Capital Gains at the Time of Death," NBER Working Papers 7811, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    28. Mervyn A. King & Louis Dicks-Mireaux, 1981. "Asset Holdings and the Life Cycle," NBER Working Papers 0614, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    29. Laitner, John, 1993. "Intergenerational and interhousehold economic links," Handbook of Population and Family Economics, in: M. R. Rosenzweig & Stark, O. (ed.), Handbook of Population and Family Economics, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 5, pages 189-238, Elsevier.
    30. Laitner, John, 1991. "Modeling Marital Connections among Family Lines," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 99(6), pages 1123-1141, December.
    31. Abel, Andrew B, 1985. "Precautionary Saving and Accidental Bequests," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 75(4), pages 777-791, September.
    32. Shinichi Nishiyama, 2000. "Measuring Time Preference and Parental Altruism: Technical Paper 2000-7," Working Papers 13333, Congressional Budget Office.
    33. Edward N. Wolff, 1996. "International Comparisons Of Wealth Inequality," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 42(4), pages 433-451, December.
    34. King, M A & Dicks-Mireaux, L-D L, 1982. "Asset Holdings and the Life-Cycle," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 92(366), pages 247-267, June.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Citations

    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.
    as


    Cited by:

    1. John Laitner, 2003. "Labor Supply Responses to Social Security," Working Papers wp050, University of Michigan, Michigan Retirement Research Center.
    2. Fang Yang, 2009. "Consumption over the Life Cycle: How Different is Housing?," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 12(3), pages 423-443, July.
    3. John Laitner, 2002. "Transition Paths and Social Security Reform," Working Papers wp025, University of Michigan, Michigan Retirement Research Center.
    4. Christoph Winter, 2014. "Accounting for the Changing Role of Family Income in Determining College Entry," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 116(4), pages 909-963, October.
    5. Lutz Hendricks, 2005. "How Important is Discount Rate Heterogeneity for Wealth Inequality?," CESifo Working Paper Series 1604, CESifo.
    6. Hendricks, Lutz, 2007. "How important is discount rate heterogeneity for wealth inequality?," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 31(9), pages 3042-3068, September.
    7. Karen E. Dynan & Jonathan Skinner & Stephen P. Zeldes, 2002. "The Importance of Bequests and Life-Cycle Saving in Capital Accumulation: A New Answer," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(2), pages 274-278, May.
    8. Fang Yang, 2005. "Consumption Along the Life Cycle: How Different is Housing?," 2005 Meeting Papers 718, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    9. Audrey Desbonnet & Jean-Olivier Hairault, 2010. "Inégalité de patrimoine et progressivité de l'impôt," Economie & Prévision, La Documentation Française, vol. 0(2), pages 21-41.
    10. Corina Boar, 2020. "Dynastic Precautionary Savings," NBER Working Papers 26635, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    11. John Laitner, 2002. "Wealth Inequality and Altruistic Bequests," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(2), pages 270-273, May.
    12. Luisa Fuster & Ayşe İmrohoroğlu & Selahattin İmrohoroğlu, 2007. "Elimination of Social Security in a Dynastic Framework," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 74(1), pages 113-145.
    13. Anthony A. Smith, Jr., 2003. "The Research Agenda: Business Cycles and Inequality," EconomicDynamics Newsletter, Review of Economic Dynamics, vol. 4(2), April.
    14. Fang Yang, 2005. "Accounting for the heterogeneity in retirement wealth," Working Papers 638, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
    15. Gomes, Francisco & Michaelides, Alexander, 2003. "Aggregate implications of defined benefit and defined contribution systems," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 24868, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    16. John Laitner, 2004. "Precautionary Saving Over the Lifecycle," Working Papers wp083, University of Michigan, Michigan Retirement Research Center.
    17. Alex Michaelides & Francisco Gomes, 2003. "(UBS Pensions series 18) Aggregate Implications of Defined Benefit and Defined Contribution Systems," FMG Discussion Papers dp469, Financial Markets Group.
    18. Shinichi Nishiyama, 2002. "Bequests, Inter Vivos Transfers, and Wealth Distribution," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 5(4), pages 892-931, October.

    Most related items

    These are the items that most often cite the same works as this one and are cited by the same works as this one.
    1. John Laitner, 2001. "Modeling the Macroeconomic Implications of Social Security Reform," Working Papers wp015, University of Michigan, Michigan Retirement Research Center.
    2. Laitner, John & Ohlsson, Henry, 2001. "Bequest motives: a comparison of Sweden and the United States," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 79(1), pages 205-236, January.
    3. Mauro Baranzini, 2005. "Modigliani's life-cycle theory of savings fifty years later," Banca Nazionale del Lavoro Quarterly Review, Banca Nazionale del Lavoro, vol. 58(233-234), pages 109-172.
    4. Mauro Baranzini, 2005. "Modigliani's life-cycle theory of savings fifty years later," BNL Quarterly Review, Banca Nazionale del Lavoro, vol. 58(233-234), pages 109-172.
    5. Marta Melguizo Garde, 2007. "La motivación de las transmisiones lucrativas entre generaciones de una familia: modelos teóricos y evidencia empírica," Hacienda Pública Española / Review of Public Economics, IEF, vol. 181(2), pages 81-118, June.
    6. Jagadeesh Gokhale & Laurence J. Kotlikoff, 2002. "The Impact of Social Security and Other Factors on the Distribution of Wealth," NBER Chapters, in: The Distributional Aspects of Social Security and Social Security Reform, pages 85-114, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Bernheim, B. Douglas, 2002. "Taxation and saving," Handbook of Public Economics, in: A. J. Auerbach & M. Feldstein (ed.), Handbook of Public Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 18, pages 1173-1249, Elsevier.
    8. Arrondel, Luc & Masson, Andre, 2006. "Altruism, exchange or indirect reciprocity: what do the data on family transfers show?," Handbook on the Economics of Giving, Reciprocity and Altruism, in: S. Kolm & Jean Mercier Ythier (ed.), Handbook of the Economics of Giving, Altruism and Reciprocity, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 14, pages 971-1053, Elsevier.
    9. Laitner, John, 2001. "Secular Changes in Wealth Inequality and Inheritance," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 111(474), pages 691-721, October.
    10. Gokhale, Jagadeesh & Kotlikoff, Laurence J. & Sefton, James & Weale, Martin, 2001. "Simulating the transmission of wealth inequality via bequests," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 79(1), pages 93-128, January.
    11. Stefan Hochguertel & Henry Ohlsson, 2009. "Compensatory inter vivos gifts," Journal of Applied Econometrics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 24(6), pages 993-1023.
    12. Cagetti, Marco & De Nardi, Mariacristina, 2008. "Wealth Inequality: Data And Models," Macroeconomic Dynamics, Cambridge University Press, vol. 12(S2), pages 285-313, September.
    13. repec:dgr:uvatin:20070074 is not listed on IDEAS
    14. Stefan Hochguertel & Henry Ohlsson, 2009. "Compensatory inter vivos gifts," Journal of Applied Econometrics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 24(6), pages 993-1023.
    15. John Laitner, 2002. "Wealth Inequality and Altruistic Bequests," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(2), pages 270-273, May.
    16. John Laitner, 2002. "Transition Paths and Social Security Reform," Working Papers wp025, University of Michigan, Michigan Retirement Research Center.
    17. Laitner, John & Juster, F Thomas, 1996. "New Evidence on Altruism: A Study of TIAA-CREF Retirees," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(4), pages 893-908, September.
    18. Katarina Nordblom & Henry Ohlsson, 2011. "Bequests, gifts, and education: links between intergenerational transfers," Empirical Economics, Springer, vol. 40(2), pages 343-358, April.
    19. Elmendorf, Douglas W. & Gregory Mankiw, N., 1999. "Government debt," Handbook of Macroeconomics, in: J. B. Taylor & M. Woodford (ed.), Handbook of Macroeconomics, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 25, pages 1615-1669, Elsevier.
    20. William G. Gale & John Karl Scholz, 1994. "Intergenerational Transfers and the Accumulation of Wealth," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 8(4), pages 145-160, Fall.
    21. Charles Yuji Horioka, 2002. "Are the Japanese Selfish, Altruistic or Dynastic?," The Japanese Economic Review, Japanese Economic Association, vol. 53(1), pages 26-54, March.

    More about this item

    Statistics

    Access and download statistics

    Corrections

    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:mrr:papers:wp019. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (MRRC Administrator). General contact details of provider: http://edirc.repec.org/data/isumius.html .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.