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Skewed Wealth Distributions: Theory and Empirics

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  • Jess Benhabib
  • Alberto Bisin

Abstract

Invariably across a cross-section of countries and time periods, wealth distributions are skewed to the right displaying thick upper tails, that is, large and slowly declining top wealth shares. In this survey we categorize the theoretical studies on the distribution of wealth in terms of the underlying economic mechanisms generating skewness and thick tails. Further, we show how these mechanisms can be micro-founded by the consumption-saving decisions of rational agents in specific economic and demographic environments. Finally we map the large empirical work on the wealth distribution to its theoretical underpinnings.

Suggested Citation

  • Jess Benhabib & Alberto Bisin, 2016. "Skewed Wealth Distributions: Theory and Empirics," NBER Working Papers 21924, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:21924
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    Cited by:

    1. Krueger, D. & Mitman, K. & Perri, F., 2016. "Macroeconomics and Household Heterogeneity," Handbook of Macroeconomics, Elsevier.
    2. Andreas Fagereng & Luigi Guiso & Davide Malacrino & Luigi Pistaferri, 2016. "Heterogeneity and Persistence in Returns to Wealth," EIEF Working Papers Series 1615, Einaudi Institute for Economics and Finance (EIEF), revised Nov 2016.
    3. Alvaredo, Facundo & Atkinson, Anthony B. & Morelli, Salvatore, 2018. "Top wealth shares in the UK over more than a century," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 162(C), pages 26-47.
    4. Garbinti, Bertrand & Goupille-Lebret, Jonathan & Piketty, Thomas, 2017. "Accounting for Wealth Inequality Dynamics: Methods, Estimates and Simulations for France (1800-2014)," CEPR Discussion Papers 11848, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    5. repec:kap:jecinq:v:15:y:2017:i:2:d:10.1007_s10888-016-9346-2 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. Stephen Morris & Muhamet Yildiz, 2016. "Crises: Equilibrium Shifts and Large Shocks," Working Papers 083_2016, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Econometric Research Program..
    7. repec:bla:econom:v:84:y:2017:i:334:p:129-156 is not listed on IDEAS
    8. Philippe De Donder & John E. Roemer, 2017. "The dynamics of capital accumulation in the US: simulations after piketty," The Journal of Economic Inequality, Springer;Society for the Study of Economic Inequality, vol. 15(2), pages 121-141, June.
    9. Fatih Guvenen & Fatih Karahan & Serdar Ozkan, 2018. "Consumption and Savings Under Non-Gaussian Income Risk," 2018 Meeting Papers 314, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    10. Krueger, Dirk & Mitman, Kurt & Perri, Fabrizio, 2016. "On the Distribution of the Welfare Losses of Large Recessions," CEPR Discussion Papers 11413, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    11. Frank Cowell & Brian Nolan & Javier Olivera & Philippe Van Kerm, 2017. "Wealth, Top Incomes and Inequality," LWS Working papers 24, LIS Cross-National Data Center in Luxembourg.
    12. Elin Halvorsen & Thor Olav Thoresen, 2017. "Distributional Effects of the Wealth Tax under a Lifetime-Dynastic Income Concept," CESifo Working Paper Series 6614, CESifo Group Munich.
    13. Matthias Krapf, 2018. "The Joint Distribution of Wealth and Income Risk: Evidence from Bern," CESifo Working Paper Series 7130, CESifo Group Munich.
    14. A. B. Atkinson, 2017. "Pareto and the Upper Tail of the Income Distribution in the UK: 1799 to the Present," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 84(334), pages 129-156, April.
    15. repec:eee:pubeco:v:162:y:2018:i:c:p:120-142 is not listed on IDEAS
    16. Katrine Jakobsen & Kristian Jakobsen & Henrik Kleven & Gabriel Zucman, 2018. "Wealth Taxation and Wealth Accumulation: Theory and Evidence from Denmark," NBER Working Papers 24371, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    17. Christoph March & Robert K. von Weizsäcker, 2016. "Coordinating Intergenerational Redistribution and the Repayment of Public Debt," CESifo Working Paper Series 6075, CESifo Group Munich.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • B16 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - History of Economic Thought through 1925 - - - Quantitative and Mathematical
    • E13 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - General Aggregative Models - - - Neoclassical
    • E21 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Consumption; Saving; Wealth
    • E24 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Employment; Unemployment; Wages; Intergenerational Income Distribution; Aggregate Human Capital; Aggregate Labor Productivity
    • E25 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Aggregate Factor Income Distribution

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