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Global Wealth Inequality

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  • Gabriel Zucman

Abstract

This article reviews the recent literature on the dynamics of global wealth inequality. I first reconcile available estimates of wealth inequality in the United States. Both surveys and tax data show that wealth inequality has increased dramatically since the 1980s, with a top 1% wealth share around 40% in 2016 vs. 25–30% in the 1980s. Second, I discuss the fast growing literature on wealth inequality across the world. Evidence points towards a rise in global wealth concentration: for China, Europe, and the United States combined, the top 1% wealth share has increased from 28% in 1980 to 33% today, while the bottom 75% share hovered around 10%. Recent studies, however, may under-estimate the level and rise of inequality, as financial globalization makes it increasingly hard to measure wealth at the top. I discuss how new data sources (leaks from financial institutions, tax amnesties, and macroeconomic statistics of tax havens) can be leveraged to better capture the wealth of the rich.

Suggested Citation

  • Gabriel Zucman, 2019. "Global Wealth Inequality," NBER Working Papers 25462, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:25462
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    Cited by:

    1. Hasan, Iftekhar & Horvath, Roman & Mares, Jan, 2020. "Finance and wealth inequality," Journal of International Money and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 108(C).
    2. Lucas Chancel, 2019. "Ten facts about income inequality in advanced economies," World Inequality Lab Working Papers hal-02876982, HAL.
    3. Bertrand Garbinti & Jonathan Goupille-Lebret & Thomas Piketty, 2021. "Accounting for Wealth-Inequality Dynamics: Methods, Estimates, and Simulations for France," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 19(1), pages 620-663.
    4. Robin Boadway & Pierre Pestieau, 2019. "Over the Top: Why an Annual Wealth Tax for Canada is Unnecessary," C.D. Howe Institute Commentary, C.D. Howe Institute, issue 546, June.
    5. Takao Asano & Akihisa Shibata & Masanori Yokoo, 2021. "Polarization and Permanent Fluctuations: Quasi-Periodic Motions in a Two-Class OLG Model," KIER Working Papers 1063, Kyoto University, Institute of Economic Research.
    6. Nolan, Brian & C. Palomino, Juan & G. Rodríguez, Juan & A. Marrero, Gustavo, 2020. "Wealth inequality, intergenerational transfers and family background," INET Oxford Working Papers 2020-15, Institute for New Economic Thinking at the Oxford Martin School, University of Oxford, revised Jul 2021.
    7. Einmahl, John & He, Y., 2020. "Unified Extreme Value Estimation for Heterogeneous Data," Discussion Paper 2020-025, Tilburg University, Center for Economic Research.
    8. Adam Goldstein & Ziyao Tian, 2020. "Financialization and Income Generation in the 21st Century: Rise of the Petit Rentier Class?," LIS Working papers 801, LIS Cross-National Data Center in Luxembourg.
    9. Einmahl, John & He, Y., 2020. "Unified Extreme Value Estimation for Heterogeneous Data," Other publications TiSEM dfe6c38c-823b-4394-b4fd-a, Tilburg University, School of Economics and Management.
    10. Bricker, Jesse & Hansen, Peter & Volz, Alice Henriques, 2019. "Wealth concentration in the U.S. after augmenting the upper tail of the survey of consumer finances," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 184(C).

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    JEL classification:

    • D31 - Microeconomics - - Distribution - - - Personal Income and Wealth Distribution
    • H26 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Tax Evasion and Avoidance

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