ESTIMATES OF HOUSEHOLD WEALTH INEQUALITY IN THE U.S., 1962–1983

Edward N. Wolff

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    Abstract

    The study has two major objectives. The first is to determine time trends in household wealth inequality in the U.S. over the 1962–83 period. Four concepts of wealth are analyzed: (i) total household wealth, defined as total household assets less liabilities; (ii) fungible wealth, defined as total household wealth less consumer durables and household inventories; (iii) financial wealth, defined as fungible wealth less equity in owner‐occupied housing; and (iv) capital wealth, defined as financial wealth less currency, checking accounts, and time deposits. Relying on a variety of data sources, I find that wealth inequality remained relatively constant from about 1962 to 1973, fell sharply from about 1973 to about 1979, and then rose sharply between 1979 and 1983. Concentration in 1983 was greater than that in 1962 for financial and capital wealth but of similar magnitude for total and fungible wealth. The second, methodological in nature, is to analyze the effect on measured inequality of the alignment of raw survey data to national balance sheet totals. I find that the alignment process can significantly affect point estimates of household wealth distribution but does not generally affect the direction of inequality trends.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)231-256
    Number of pages26
    JournalReview of Income and Wealth
    Volume33
    Issue number3
    DOIs
    StatePublished - Sep 1987

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Economics and Econometrics

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