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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.

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  • 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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    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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