IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/p/nbr/nberwo/20734.html
   My bibliography  Save this paper

What Do We Know About Evolution of Top Wealth Shares in the United States?

Author

Listed:
  • Wojciech Kopczuk

Abstract

I discuss available evidence about the evolution of top wealth shares in the United States over the last one hundred years. The three main approaches – Survey of Consumer Finances, estate tax multiplier techniques and capitalization method – generate generally consistent findings until mid-1980s but diverge since then, with capitalization method showing a dramatic increase in wealth concentration and the other two methods showing at best a small increase. I discuss strengths and weaknesses of different approaches. The increase in capitalization estimates since 2000 is driven by a dramatic and surprising increase in fixed income assets. There is evidence that estate tax estimates may not be sufficiently accounting for mortality improvements over time. The non-response and coverage issues in the SCF are a concern. I conclude that changing nature of top incomes and the increased importance of self-made wealth may explain difficulties in implementing each of the methods and account for why the results diverge.

Suggested Citation

  • Wojciech Kopczuk, 2014. "What Do We Know About Evolution of Top Wealth Shares in the United States?," NBER Working Papers 20734, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:20734
    Note: AG DAE LS PE
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w20734.pdf
    Download Restriction: no
    ---><---

    Other versions of this item:

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Feldstein, Martin & Liebman, Jeffrey B. (ed.), 2002. "The Distributional Aspects of Social Security and Social Security Reform," National Bureau of Economic Research Books, University of Chicago Press, edition 1, number 9780226241067, December.
    2. Martin Feldstein & Jeffrey B. Liebman, 2002. "The Distributional Aspects of Social Security and Social Security Reform," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number feld02-1.
    3. Roine, Jesper & Waldenström, Daniel, 2014. "Long run trends in the distribution of income and wealth," Working Paper Series, Center for Fiscal Studies 2014:5, Uppsala University, Department of Economics.
    4. Martin S. Feldstein & Jeffrey B. Liebman, 2002. "Introduction to "The Distributional Aspects of Social Security and Social Security Reform"," NBER Chapters, in: The Distributional Aspects of Social Security and Social Security Reform, pages 1-10, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Wojciech Kopczuk, 2012. "Taxation of Intergenerational Transfers and Wealth," NBER Working Papers 18584, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Cagetti, Marco & De Nardi, Mariacristina, 2008. "Wealth Inequality: Data And Models," Macroeconomic Dynamics, Cambridge University Press, vol. 12(S2), pages 285-313, September.
    7. Daniel R. Feenberg & James M. Poterba, 1993. "Income Inequality and the Incomes of Very High-Income Taxpayers: Evidence from Tax Returns," NBER Chapters, in: Tax Policy and the Economy, Volume 7, pages 145-177, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Lindert, Peter H., 2000. "Three centuries of inequality in Britain and America," Handbook of Income Distribution, in: A.B. Atkinson & F. Bourguignon (ed.), Handbook of Income Distribution, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 3, pages 167-216, Elsevier.
    9. 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.
    10. Robert J. Lampman, 1962. "The Share of Top Wealth-Holders in National Wealth, 1922-56," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number lamp62-1.
    11. Kopczuk, Wojciech & Saez, Emmanuel, 2004. "Top Wealth Shares in the United States, 1916-2000: Evidence From Estate Tax Returns," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association;National Tax Journal, vol. 57(2), pages 445-487, June.
    12. Anthony B Atkinson & François Bourguignon, 2014. "Handbook of Income Distribution," Post-Print halshs-02923231, HAL.
    13. Davies, James B. & Shorrocks, Anthony F., 2000. "The distribution of wealth," Handbook of Income Distribution, in: A.B. Atkinson & F. Bourguignon (ed.), Handbook of Income Distribution, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 11, pages 605-675, Elsevier.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    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. 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.
    2. Elinder, Mikael & Erixson, Oscar & Waldenström, Daniel, 2018. "Inheritance and wealth inequality: Evidence from population registers," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 165(C), pages 17-30.
    3. Henry Ohlsson & Jesper Roine & Daniel Waldenstrom, 2006. "Long-Run Changes in the Concentration of Wealth: An Overview of Recent Findings," WIDER Working Paper Series RP2006-103, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
    4. Mariacristina De Nardi & Giulio Fella, 2017. "Saving and Wealth Inequality," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 26, pages 280-300, October.
    5. Lena Edlund & Wojciech Kopczuk, 2009. "Women, Wealth, and Mobility," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(1), pages 146-178, March.
    6. Kopczuk, Wojciech & Saez, Emmanuel, 2004. "Top Wealth Shares in the United States, 1916-2000: Evidence From Estate Tax Returns," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association;National Tax Journal, vol. 57(2), pages 445-487, June.
    7. Thomas Goda, 2018. "The global concentration of wealth [Persistence of power, elites, and institutions]," Cambridge Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 42(1), pages 95-115.
    8. Christoph Schinke, 2012. "Inheritance in Germany 1911 to 2009: A Mortality Multiplier Approach," SOEPpapers on Multidisciplinary Panel Data Research 462, DIW Berlin, The German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP).
    9. Adam Looney & Kevin B. Moore, 2015. "Changes in the Distribution of After-Tax Wealth: Has Income Tax Policy Increased Wealth Inequality?," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2015-58, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
    10. Frank A. Cowell & Philippe Kerm, 2015. "Wealth Inequality: A Survey," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 29(4), pages 671-710, September.
    11. 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.
    12. Jeffrey R. Brown & Julia Lynn Coronado & Don Fullerton, 2009. "Is Social Security Part of the Social Safety Net?," NBER Chapters, in: Tax Policy and the Economy, Volume 23, pages 37-72, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    13. Bertrand Garbinti & Jonathan Goupille-Lebret & Thomas Piketty, 2016. "Accounting for Wealth Inequality Dynamics: Methods, Estimates and Simulations for France (1800-2014)," World Inequality Lab Working Papers halshs-02794339, HAL.
    14. Anthony B. Atkinson & Thomas Piketty & Emmanuel Saez, 2011. "Top Incomes in the Long Run of History," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 49(1), pages 3-71, March.
    15. Hasan, Iftekhar & Horvath, Roman & Mares, Jan, 2020. "Finance and wealth inequality," Journal of International Money and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 108(C).
    16. Irena Dushi & Leora Friedberg & Anthony Webb, 2021. "Is the Adjustment of Social Security Benefits Actuarially Fair, and If So, for Whom?," Working Papers wp421, University of Michigan, Michigan Retirement Research Center.
    17. Matthew Smith & Owen Zidar & Eric Zwick, 2021. "Top Wealth in America: New Estimates and Implications for Taxing the Rich," Working Papers 2021-7, Princeton University. Economics Department..
    18. Thomas Piketty, 2011. "On the Long-Run Evolution of Inheritance: France 1820--2050," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 126(3), pages 1071-1131.
    19. Wojciech Kopczuk, 2012. "Taxation of Intergenerational Transfers and Wealth," NBER Working Papers 18584, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    20. Thomas F. Crossley & Cormac O'Dea & Facundo Alvaredo & Anthony B. Atkinson & Salvatore Morelli, 2016. "The Challenge of Measuring UK Wealth Inequality in the 2000s," Fiscal Studies, Institute for Fiscal Studies, vol. 37, pages 13-33, March.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D31 - Microeconomics - - Distribution - - - Personal Income and Wealth Distribution

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:

    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:nbr:nberwo:20734. 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: https://edirc.repec.org/data/nberrus.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 bibliographic 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.

    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: https://edirc.repec.org/data/nberrus.html .

    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.