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The evolution of wealth inequality over half a century: the role of skills, taxes and institutions

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  • Markus Poschke

    (McGill University, Montreal)

  • Baris Kaymak

    (Universite de Montreal)

Abstract

Over the last 50 years, the US economy saw significant changes in its fiscal structure. Notable among these are the introduction and expansion of social security programs and Medicare, and the transformation of the tax system. These institutional changes took place against a backdrop of developments in the technology of production that increasingly favored skilled workers.In this paper, we analyze how the interplay between these institutional and technological factors might have shaped the distributions of income, wealth, consumption and welfare. We find that while changes in income inequality are mostly attributable to technological factors, the increase in wealth inequality has further been compounded by the expansion of social security and Medicare, which have reduced saving incentives for retirement, in particular for low and middle income groups. As a result, they have substantially increased wealth concentration in US. Results suggest that approximately 25% of the rise in the share of wealth held by the wealthiest 1% is explained by larger transfers to senior population.

Suggested Citation

  • Markus Poschke & Baris Kaymak, 2015. "The evolution of wealth inequality over half a century: the role of skills, taxes and institutions," 2015 Meeting Papers 967, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  • Handle: RePEc:red:sed015:967
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    File URL: https://economicdynamics.org/meetpapers/2015/paper_967.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Mark Huggett & Alejandro Badel, 2013. "Taxing Top Earners: A Human Capital Perspective," 2013 Meeting Papers 625, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    2. Karel Mertens & José L. Montiel Olea, 2013. "Marginal Tax Rates and Income: New Time Series Evidence," NBER Working Papers 19171, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Kindermann, Fabian & Krueger, Dirk, 2014. "High Marginal Tax Rates on the Top 1%? Lessons from a Life Cycle Model with Idiosyncratic Income Risk," CEPR Discussion Papers 10208, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    4. Guner, Nezih & Lopez-Daneri, Martin & Ventura, Gustavo, 2016. "Heterogeneity and Government revenues: Higher taxes at the top?," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 80(C), pages 69-85.
    5. Saez, Emmanuel & Zucman, Gabriel, 2014. "Wealth Inequality in the United States since 1913: Evidence from Capitalized Income Tax Data," CEPR Discussion Papers 10227, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    6. Markus Poschke & Baris Kaymak & Ozan Bakis, 2012. "On the Optimality of Progressive Income Redistribution," 2012 Meeting Papers 837, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    7. Kjetil Storesletten & Giovanni L. Violante & Jonathan Heathcote, 2010. "Redistributive Taxation in a Partial-Insurance Economy," 2010 Meeting Papers 1124, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    8. Karel Mertens, 2013. "Marginal Tax Rates and Reported Incomes: New Time Series Evidence," 2013 Meeting Papers 574, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    9. Wojciech Kopczuk & Emmanuel Saez & Jae Song, 2010. "Earnings Inequality and Mobility in the United States: Evidence from Social Security Data Since 1937," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 125(1), pages 91-128.
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    Cited by:

    1. Per Krusell & Anthony Smith & Joachim Hubmer, 2015. "The historical evolution of the wealth distribution: A quantitative-theoretic investigation," 2015 Meeting Papers 1406, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    2. Bettina Brueggemann, 2016. "Higher Taxes at the Top: The Role of Entrepreneurs," 2016 Meeting Papers 332, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    3. 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.
    4. Jess Benhabib & Alberto Bisin, 2016. "Skewed Wealth Distributions: Theory and Empirics," NBER Working Papers 21924, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. 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.
    6. Weijie Luo & Andrew Pickering & Paulo Santos Monteiro, 2017. "Inequality and the Size of Government," Discussion Papers 17/02, Department of Economics, University of York.
    7. Jess Benhabib & Alberto Bisin & Mi Luo, 2015. "Wealth Distribution and Social Mobility in the US: A Quantitative Approach," NBER Working Papers 21721, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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