Growing inequality has been one of the most pressing political issues since the Great Recession. However, there is a relative lack of consensus on the significant drivers of this trend. This column investigates the contribution of globalisation, via international trade, to US inequality. Although trade is found to have had important effects on certain parts of the US labour market in the early 2000s, the growth in US inequality since 1980 can be traced back to Reagan-era tax cuts.
Douglas Campbell, Lester Lusher, 08 September 2016
Brandon Dupont, Joshua Rosenbloom, 19 June 2016
The long-run persistence of social and economic status has received substantial attention from economists of late. But the impact of economic and political shocks on this persistence has yet to be thoroughly explored. This column examines the disruptions from the US Civil War on the Southern wealth distribution. Results suggest that an entrenched southern planter elite retained their economic status after the war. However, the turmoil of the decade opened mobility opportunities for Southerners of more modest means, especially compared with the North.
Simon Boserup, Wojciech Kopczuk, Claus Kreiner, 11 March 2016
It is often suggested that intergenerational bequests such as inheritances create and perpetuate wealth inequality. This column uses Danish data to explore the effects of bequests on the wealth distribution. While bequests are found to increase the dispersion of absolute wealth inequality, relative inequality declines. These findings suggest that inheritance alone need not increase wealth inequality.
Mariacristina De Nardi, Giulio Fella, Fang Yang, 22 December 2015
Thomas Piketty’s "Capital in the Twenty-First Century" quantified the evolution of wealth inequality and concentration over time and across a number of countries. This column examines existing macroeconomic models of wealth inequality through the lenses of the facts and ideas in Piketty’s book. It further examines the importance of the mechanism that Piketty champions – post-tax rate of return on capital. Gaps in existing knowledge and directions for future research are identified.
Daniel Waldenström, 20 December 2015
Recent work on the importance of wealth and capital shows that it has fluctuated grossly over time in Europe. This column examines whether this pattern carries over to smaller, late-industrialising countries by looking at new historical evidence from Sweden. After being low in the pre-industrial era, Swedish wealth levels came into line with the rest of Europe in the 20th century. However, government wealth grew much faster and became more important in Sweden, largely due its public pension system. These findings highlight the role of economic and political institutions in the long-run evolution of national wealth.
Lucas Chancel, Thomas Piketty, 01 December 2015
The COP21 conference faces a severe problem when it comes to funding climate adaptation in developing countries. This column examines novel strategies to increase the funding. The strategies are based on high individual carbon emitters wherever they are in the world, rather than according to the responsibilities of high-emitting countries. To this end, a global distribution of individual income and CO2e emissions is constructed.
Orazio Attanasio, Tim Besley, Andrew Haldane, Peter Lindert, Kevin O'Rourke, Thomas Piketty, Jaume Ventura, 28 January 2015
On 19th December, CEPR and the Bank of England hosted a joint workshop to discuss Thomas Piketty’s seminal work ‘Capital in the 21st Century’. Chaired by the Bank’s Chief Economist Andy Haldane, the panel comprised Orazio Attanasio, Tim Besley, Peter Lindert, Thomas Piketty and Jaume Ventura.
Per Krusell, Tony Smith, 01 June 2014
Thomas Piketty’s new book has been widely praised for its empirical contribution, but his prediction of rising inequality rests on economic theory. This column argues that Piketty’s pessimistic forecast is based on an extreme – and unrealistic – assumption about households’ saving behaviour. According to standard theory, the wealth–income ratio would increase only modestly as growth falls, so declining growth would not be a powerful force for generating high inequality.
Thomas Piketty, 30 May 2014
‘Capital in the 21st century’ has had an extraordinary – and extraordinarily rapid – impact on the global economic dialogue. It has drawn an extraordinary – and extraordinarily rapid – response, including a front-page critique by an FT journalist. In this column, the book’s author responds point-by-point to the critiques. He rejects the notion that he made outright mistakes. Scholars working with old data make judgments and compromises to expand the dataset; disagreements are inevitable – a point that applies equally to the journalist’s ‘corrections’. In any case, the book’s overall analysis is robust to such critiques.