Financial Advice for Retirement, Social Security, IRAs and Estate Planning

An Update On Wealth Inequality

June 12, 2018

This academic paper uses a new set of data to measure wealth distribution over the long term. It makes a lot of interesting points.

Asset prices shift the wealth distribution because the composition and leverage of household portfolios differ systematically along the wealth distribution. Middle-class portfolios are dominated by housing, while rich households predominantly own equity. An important consequence is that the top and the middle of the distribution are affected differentially by changes in equity and house prices. Housing booms lead to substantial wealth gains for leveraged middle-class households and tend to decrease wealth inequality, all else equal. Stock market booms primarily boost the wealth of households at the top of the distribution. This race between the equity market and the housing market shaped wealth dynamics in postwar America and decoupled the income and wealth distribution over extended periods. The historical data also reveal that no progress has been made in reducing income and wealth inequalities between black and white households over the past 70 years, and that close to half of all American households have less wealth today in real terms than the median household had in 1970.




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