Daniel Waldenström, 17 November 2021

Wealth inequality has attracted considerable attention in recent years. This column presents new historical evidence that revises earlier results and reveals long-term patterns. A key finding is that wealth has changed in nature over the past century: once held by the elite, it is now widely held in the form of housing and pension savings. These changes appear to account for the redistribution of wealth over the last century and the fact that its concentration has remained relatively low in more recent decades despite rapid increases in aggregate wealth.

Ethan Ilzetzki, 18 August 2021

By most measures, income inequality has increased in the UK in the past several decades. The July 2021 CfM survey asked the members of its UK panel to evaluate the impact of central banks on inequality and whether the Bank of England should consider income and wealth distribution in its monetary policy decisions. The majority the panel thinks monetary policy has only a small impact on wealth and income inequality. A larger majority of nearly 90% of the panel believes that inequality should play a minimal role or no role in the Bank of England’s monetary policy decisions.

Paolo Acciari, Facundo Alvaredo, Salvatore Morelli, 24 April 2021

Growing wealth disparities can have corrosive effects on equality of opportunity when they crystallise over time and turn into persistent disparities across generations. This column uses newly assembled data from Italian inheritance tax records to show that the wealth share of the top 1% (half a million individuals) increased from 16% in 1995 to 22% in 2016, and the share accruing to the top 0.01% (the richest 5,000 adults) almost tripled from 1.8% to 5%.  In contrast, the poorest 50% saw an 80% drop in their average net wealth over the same period. The data also reveal the growing role of inheritance and gifts inter vivos as a share of national income, as well as their increasing concentration at the top.

Neil Cummins, 24 February 2019

Within countries, the driving force behind the 20th century’s dramatic drop in inequality were the declines in the wealth shares of the top 1%. Based on 60 million death and probate records covering a period of 100 years, this column argues that in the case of Britain the distributional gains from the Great Equalisation were exclusively confined to the top 30% of the wealth distribution. This left the nation’s social and political fabric vulnerable to the protest vote of many in 2016 to leave the EU, following the austerity induced by the financial crisis.

Moritz Kuhn, Moritz Schularick, Ulrike Steins, 09 August 2018

Recent work examining the evolution of the wealth distribution has tended to not paid much attention to the role of asset prices. This column uses a new US dataset to explore the role that asset price movements have in the US wealth distribution. Asset prices matter because portfolio composition differs systematically along the wealth distribution. The data further show that no progress has been made in reducing wealth inequalities between white and black households over the past 70 years. 

Javier Cravino, Ting Lan, Andrei Levchenko, 16 June 2018

Monetary policy shocks can affect different types of agents differently. These distributional effects can have important consequences for policy effectiveness. Using US data, this column explores how shocks differentially affect the prices faced by households with different incomes. The results suggest that middle-income households’ consumption baskets have more volatile prices than those of high-income households, and they are therefore more exposed to monetary policy shocks.

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 Thustrup 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.


CEPR Policy Research