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Wealth Inequality, Family Background, and Estate Taxation

Author

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  • Fang Yang

    (Louisiana State University)

  • Mariacristina De Nardi

    (UCL and Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago)

Abstract

This paper provides two main contributions. First, it proposes a new theory of wealth inequality that merges two sources of inequality previously proposed: bequests motives and inheritance of ability of across generations, and an earnings process that allows for more earnings risk for the richest. Second, it uses our calibrated framework to study the importance of parental background and the effects of changing estate taxation on inequality, aggregate capital accumulation, intergenerational mobility, welfare, and on family background as a source of inequality. Our calibrated model generates realistically skewed distributions for wealth, earnings, and bequests, and a correlation of lifetime earnings and wealth at retirement that is close to that in the data and is thus a good laboratory to use to study these questions. We find that parental background is a crucial determinant of one's expected lifetime utility. We also find that increasing estate taxation from its effective levels observed over many years, to levels that are closer to the statutory ones observed in year 2000, would significantly reduce wealth concentration in the hands of the richest few and the role of parental background in determining one's lot in life. The implied welfare gains of such a policy would be positive for 71% of the population. For those experiencing losses, their loss would be a one-time cost of the order of 11% of average income.

Suggested Citation

  • Fang Yang & Mariacristina De Nardi, 2015. "Wealth Inequality, Family Background, and Estate Taxation," 2015 Meeting Papers 92, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  • Handle: RePEc:red:sed015:92
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Bettina Brueggemann, 2016. "Higher Taxes at the Top: The Role of Entrepreneurs," 2016 Meeting Papers 332, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    2. De Nardi, Mariacristina & Giulio , Fella & Yang, Fang, 2016. "Piketty’s Book and Macro Models of Wealth Inequality," Chicago Fed Letter, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.
    3. Spencer Bastani & Daniel Waldenström, 2018. "How Should Capital be Taxed? Theory and Evidence from Sweden," CESifo Working Paper Series 7004, CESifo Group Munich.
    4. Marcin Waniek & Krzysztof Makarski & Joanna Tyrowicz & Marcin Bielecki, 2017. "Inequality in an OLG Economy with Heterogeneous Cohorts and Pension Systems," 2017 Meeting Papers 958, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    5. Mazumder, Bhashkar, 2015. "Estimating the Intergenerational Elasticity and Rank Association in the U.S.: Overcoming the Current Limitations of Tax Data," Working Paper Series WP-2015-4, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.
    6. Mariacristina De Nardi, 2015. "Quantitative Models of Wealth Inequality: A Survey," NBER Working Papers 21106, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Pham-Dao, Lien, 2016. "Public Insurance and Wealth Inequality - A Euro Area Analysis," Annual Conference 2016 (Augsburg): Demographic Change 145942, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
    8. Scharrer, Christian & Heer, Burkhard, 2016. "The Burden of Unanticipated Fiscal Policy," Annual Conference 2016 (Augsburg): Demographic Change 145542, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
    9. Bastani, Spencer & Waldenström, Daniel, 2018. "How Should Capital Be Taxed? Theory and Evidence from Sweden," IZA Discussion Papers 11475, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    10. Kaymak, Barış & Poschke, Markus, 2016. "The evolution of wealth inequality over half a century: The role of taxes, transfers and technology," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 77(C), pages 1-25.
    11. Zhao, Kai, 2017. "Social insurance, private health insurance and individual welfare," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 78(C), pages 102-117.
    12. Aaron Cooke & Hyun Lee & Kai Zhao, 2017. "Houses Divided: A Model of Intergenerational Transfers, Differential Fertility and Wealth Inequality," Working papers 2017-22, University of Connecticut, Department of Economics.
    13. Rawley Z. Heimer & Kristian Ove R. Myrseth & Raphael S. Schoenle, 2015. "YOLO: Mortality Beliefs and Household Finance Puzzles," Working Papers 97, Brandeis University, Department of Economics and International Businesss School.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D1 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior
    • D14 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Household Saving; Personal Finance
    • D31 - Microeconomics - - Distribution - - - Personal Income and Wealth Distribution
    • E21 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Consumption; Saving; Wealth
    • E6 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook
    • H2 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue

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