TRENDS IN AGGREGATE HOUSEHOLD WEALTH IN THE US., 1900–83

Edward N. Wolff

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    Abstract

    New estimates of aggregate household wealth for the U S. covering selected years in the period from 1900 to 1983 are presented. I find that marketable wealth per capita grew at 1.46 percent per year in real terms over the 1900–83 period, while real wealth per household grew at 0.81 percent per year. However, the growth rate was not uniform over the period, with the rates high during the 1900–29 and the 1949–69 periods, and slow during the other years. Moreover, real per capita wealth actually increased more slowly than real per capita disposable income and real per capita GNP over the century. I also find dramatic changes in the composition of household wealth over the century. In particular, both tangibles and fixed claim assets increased relative to total assets over the period from 1900 to 1983, while equities fell from about half to a quarter. Owner‐occupied housing increased only moderately as a proportion of assets, from 17 percent in 1900 to 20 percent in 1983. Unincorporated business equity fell from over a third of total assets to 12 percent. Among financial assets, the biggest relative growth occurred in deposits in financial institutions, which grew from 8 percent in 1900 to 22 percent in 1983. Corporate stock had the most volatile behavior in the household portfolio, growing from 13 percent of total assets in 1900 to 27 percent in 1929, falling to 10 percent in 1949, rising to 22 percent in 1965, and then falling to 11 percent by 1983. Debt as a proportion of total assets rose from 5 percent in 1900 to 16 percent in 1983. Finally, both pension reserves and social security wealth increased relative to marketable assets from virtually zero in 1900 to 12 and 48 percent, respectively.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)1-29
    Number of pages29
    JournalReview of Income and Wealth
    Volume35
    Issue number1
    DOIs
    StatePublished - Mar 1989

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Economics and Econometrics

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