IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Making the Most of Capital in the 21st Century


  • Peter H. Lindert


Thomas Piketty's monumental Capital in the Twenty-First Century has transported us to a higher understanding of historical movements in inequality. This essay ranks the promise of different paths that scholars can usefully follow from the point to which his book has guided us. The main path to follow is the income inequality history so well paved by Piketty and his team, supported by the book's history of twentieth-century shocks and political responses. Less promising is the book's emphasis on wealth, capital, and the rate of return. Following the income route to better inequality predictions requires merging his team's history of top income shares with the history of inequality movements within the lower 90 percent. It also invites a merger with other scholarship that has shown positive growth effects of the kind of democracy Piketty calls for.

Suggested Citation

  • Peter H. Lindert, 2014. "Making the Most of Capital in the 21st Century," NBER Working Papers 20232, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:20232
    Note: DAE

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no


    Blog mentions

    As found by, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
    1. Inequality, economics and politics – Thomas Piketty at the Bank of England
      by Diane Coyle in The Enlightened Economist on 2014-12-21 00:10:40


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

    Cited by:

    1. Ranaldi, Marco & Milanović, Branko, 2022. "Capitalist systems and income inequality," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 50(1), pages 20-32.
    2. Marisa Civardi & Renata Targetti Lenti, 2018. "Can the link between functional and personal income distribution enhance the analysis of inequality?," International Review of Economics, Springer;Happiness Economics and Interpersonal Relations (HEIRS), vol. 65(2), pages 137-156, June.
    3. Schaff, Felix, 2020. "When ‘the state made war’, what happened to economic inequality? Evidence from preindustrial Germany (c.1400-1800)," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 107046, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    4. Haldane, Andrew & Shanbhogue, Rachana & Attanasio, Orazio & Besley, Timothy & Lindert, Peter & Piketty, Thomas & Ventura, Jaume, 2015. "Capital in the 21st century," Bank of England Quarterly Bulletin, Bank of England, vol. 55(1), pages 36-46.
    5. Guido Alfani & Francesco Ammannati, 2017. "Long‐term trends in economic inequality: the case of the Florentine state, c. 1300–1800," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 70(4), pages 1072-1102, November.
    6. Guido Alfani & Matteo Di Tullio, 2015. "Dinamiche di lungo periodo della disuguaglianza in Italia settentrionale: una nota di ricerca," Working Papers 071, "Carlo F. Dondena" Centre for Research on Social Dynamics (DONDENA), Università Commerciale Luigi Bocconi.
    7. Guido Alfani, 2017. "The rich in historical perspective: evidence for preindustrial Europe (ca. 1300–1800)," Cliometrica, Springer;Cliometric Society (Association Francaise de Cliométrie), vol. 11(3), pages 321-348, September.
    8. , Stone Center & Alfani, Guido & Gierok, Victoria & Schaff, Felix, 2020. "Economic Inequality in Preindustrial Germany, ca. 1300 – 1850," SocArXiv 8qb7x, Center for Open Science.
    9. Alfani, Guido & Di Tullio, M & Fochesato, M, 2020. "The determinants of wealth inequality in the Republic of Venice (1400-1800)," CAGE Online Working Paper Series 483, Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE).
    10. Guido Alfani, 2016. "Measuring Well-Being in the Past," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 62(4), pages 785-791, December.
    11. Espín-Sánchez, José-Antonio & Gil-Guirado, Salvador & Giraldo-Paez, W. Daniel & Vickers, Chris, 2019. "Labor income inequality in pre-industrial Mediterranean Spain: The city of Murcia in the 18th century," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 73(C), pages 1-1.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D31 - Microeconomics - - Distribution - - - Personal Income and Wealth Distribution
    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement
    • E01 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - General - - - Measurement and Data on National Income and Product Accounts and Wealth; Environmental Accounts
    • H20 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - General
    • N10 - Economic History - - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics; Industrial Structure; Growth; Fluctuations - - - General, International, or Comparative
    • N30 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - General, International, or Comparative

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:


    Access and download statistics


    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:nbr:nberwo:20232. 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: . General contact details of provider: .

    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.

    We have no bibliographic references for this item. You can help adding them by using 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.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (email available below). General contact details of provider: .

    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.