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The Historical Evolution of the Wealth Distribution: A Quantitative-Theoretic Investigation

Author

Listed:
  • Joachim Hubmer
  • Per Krusell
  • Anthony A. Smith, Jr.

Abstract

This paper employs the benchmark heterogeneous-agent model used in macroeconomics to examine drivers of the rise in wealth inequality in the U.S. over the last thirty years. Several plausible candidates are formulated, calibrated to data, and examined through the lens of the model. There is one main finding: by far the most important driver is the significant drop in tax progressivity that started in the late 1970s, intensified during the Reagan years, and then subsequently flattened out, with only a minor bounce back. The sharp observed increases in earnings inequality, the falling labor share over the recent decades, and potential mechanisms underlying changes in the gap between the interest rate and the growth rate (Piketty's r-g story) all fall far short of accounting for the data.

Suggested Citation

  • Joachim Hubmer & Per Krusell & Anthony A. Smith, Jr., 2016. "The Historical Evolution of the Wealth Distribution: A Quantitative-Theoretic Investigation," NBER Working Papers 23011, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:23011
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    Cited by:

    1. repec:red:ecodyn:v:18:y:2017:i:1:agenda is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Boehl, Gregor & Fischer, Thomas, 2017. "Capital Taxation and Investment: Matching 100 Years of Wealth Inequality Dynamics," Working Papers 2017:8, Lund University, Department of Economics.
    3. Marina Azzimonti & Pierre Yared, 2018. "The Optimal Public and Private Provision of Safe Assets," NBER Working Papers 24534, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. repec:red:issued:16-340 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. 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.
    6. Böhl, Gregor & Fischer, Thomas, 2017. "Can taxation predict US top-wealth share dynamics?," IMFS Working Paper Series 118, Goethe University Frankfurt, Institute for Monetary and Financial Stability (IMFS).

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D14 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Household Saving; Personal Finance
    • D31 - Microeconomics - - Distribution - - - Personal Income and Wealth Distribution
    • D33 - Microeconomics - - Distribution - - - Factor Income Distribution
    • E21 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Consumption; Saving; Wealth
    • E25 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Aggregate Factor Income Distribution
    • E62 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook - - - Fiscal Policy
    • H31 - Public Economics - - Fiscal Policies and Behavior of Economic Agents - - - Household

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