Accounting for Wealth Inequality Dynamics: Methods, Estimates and Simulations for France (1800-2014)
127 Pages Posted: 6 Jul 2017
Date Written: june 2017
This paper combines different sources and methods (income tax data, inheritance registers, national accounts, wealth surveys) in order to deliver consistent, unified wealth distribution series for France over the 1800-2014 period. We find a large decline of the top 10% wealth share from the 1910s to the 1980s, mostly to the benefit of the middle 40% of the distribution. Since the 1980s-90s, we observe a moderate rise of wealth concentration, with large fluctuations due to asset price movements. In effect, rising inequality in saving rates and rates of return pushes toward rising wealth concentration, in spite of the contradictory effect of housing prices. We develop a simple simulation model highlighting how the combination of unequal saving rates, rates of return and labor earnings leads to large multiplicative effects and high steady-state wealth concentration. Small changes in the key parameters appear to matter a lot for long-run inequality. We discuss the conditions under which rising concentration is likely to continue in the coming decades.
Keywords: saving rate, steady-state, wealth inequality
JEL Classification: D31 E21 N34
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