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Household Wealth Trends in the United States, 1962-2013: What Happened over the Great Recession?

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  • Edward N. Wolff

Abstract

Asset prices plunged between 2007 and 2010 but then rebounded from 2010 to 2013. The most telling finding is that median wealth plummeted by 44 percent over years 2007 to 2010, almost double the drop in housing prices. The inequality of net worth, after almost two decades of little movement, was also up sharply. Relative indebtedness expanded, particularly for the middle class, though the proximate causes were declining net worth and income rather than an increase in absolute indebtedness. The sharp fall in median net worth and the rise in overall wealth inequality over these years are traceable primarily to the high leverage of middle class families and the high share of homes in their portfolio. The racial and ethnic disparity in wealth also widened considerably. Households under age 45 saw their relative and absolute wealth declined sharply. Rather remarkably, there was virtually no change in median wealth from 2010 to 2013 despite the rebound in asset prices. The proximate cause was the high dissavings of the middle class, though their debt continued to fall. Wealth inequality and the racial and ethnic wealth gap also remained largely unchanged, though there was some recovery of net worth for young households.

Suggested Citation

  • Edward N. Wolff, 2014. "Household Wealth Trends in the United States, 1962-2013: What Happened over the Great Recession?," NBER Working Papers 20733, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:20733
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    1. Maury Gittleman & Edward N. Wolff, 2004. "Racial Differences in Patterns of Wealth Accumulation," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 39(1).
    2. Francine D. Blau & John W. Graham, 1990. "Black-White Differences in Wealth and Asset Composition," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 105(2), pages 321-339.
    3. Saez, Emmanuel & Zucman, Gabriel, 2014. "Wealth Inequality in the United States since 1913: Evidence from Capitalized Income Tax Data," CEPR Discussion Papers 10227, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    4. Martin Feldstein & Shlomo Yitzhaki, 1982. "Are High Income Individuals Better Stock Market Investors?," NBER Working Papers 0948, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    1. repec:aea:jecper:v:32:y:2018:i:1:p:3-30 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Emmanuel Saez & Gabriel Zucman, 2014. "Wealth Inequality in the United States since 1913: Evidence from Capitalized Income Tax Data," NBER Working Papers 20625, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Raymond Fisman & Keith Gladstone & Ilyana Kuziemko & Suresh Naidu, 2017. "Do Americans Want to Tax Capital? Evidence from Online Surveys," NBER Working Papers 23907, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Richard C. Sutch, 2016. "The One-Percent across Two Centuries: A Replication of Thomas Piketty’s Data on the Distribution of Wealth for the United States," Working Papers 201602, University of California at Riverside, Department of Economics.
    5. Edward Glaeser & Joseph Gyourko, 2018. "The Economic Implications of Housing Supply," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 32(1), pages 3-30, Winter.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D31 - Microeconomics - - Distribution - - - Personal Income and Wealth Distribution
    • J15 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Minorities, Races, Indigenous Peoples, and Immigrants; Non-labor Discrimination

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