Understanding wealth in the United Stateswho has it, how they acquired it, and how they preserve itis crucial to addressing the economic and political challenges facing the nation. But until now we have had little reliable information. Edward Wolff, one of the world’s great experts on the economics of wealth, offers an authoritative account of patterns in the accumulation and distribution of wealth since 1900.
A Century of Wealth in America demonstrates that the most remarkable change has been the growth of per capita household wealth, which climbed almost eightfold prior to the 2007 recession. But overlaid on this base rate are worrying trends. The share of personal wealth claimed by the richest one percent almost doubled between the mid-1970s and 2013, concurrent with a steep run-up of debt in the middle class. As the wealth of the average family dropped precipitouslyby 44 percentbetween 2007 and 2013, with black families hit hardest, the debt-income ratio more than doubled. The Great Recession also caused a sharp spike in asset poverty, as more and more families barely survived from one paycheck to the next. In short, the United States has changed from being one of the most economically equal of the advanced industrialized countries to being one of the most unequal.
At a time of deep uncertainty about the future, A Century of Wealth in America provides a sober bedrock of facts and astute analysis. It will become one of the few indispensable resources for contemporary public debate.
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About the Author
Sean Runnette, a multiple AudioFile Earphones Award winner, has also produced several Audie Award-winning audiobooks. His film and television appearances include Two If by Sea, Copland, Sex and the City, Law & Order, Third Watch, and lots and lots of commercials.
Table of Contents
I Recent Developments in Personal Wealth
1 Plan of the Book and Historical Backdrop 3
2 Trends in Household Wealth, 1962 to 2013 39
3 Changing Portfolio Composition and the Rate of Return on Household Wealth 86
4 International Comparisons of Household Wealth Inequality 139
II Mechanisms Behind Changing Wealth Inequality
5 Deconstructing Wealth Trends, 1983-2013 177
6 Age-Wealth Profiles and the Life Cycle Model: Implications for Wealth Accumulation 211
7 Inheritances and the Distribution of Wealth 262
8 The Role of Social Security and Private Pensions 311
III Who Are the Rich and the Poor?
9 Wealth Differences among Socioeconomic Groups 369
10 Who Are the Rich? A Demographic Profile of High-Income and High-Wealth Americans 436
11 The Persistence of Asset Poverty 492
IV Wealth over the Long Term
12 Long-Term Trends in Aggregate Household Wealth 553
13 Long-Term Trends in the Concentration of Household Wealth 589
V Tax Policy and Conclusion
14 Wealth Taxation 619
15 Summary of Principal Findings and Concluding Comments 650
Appendix 1 Adjustments and Imputations Made to the 1962 SFCC and 1983, 1989, 1992, and 1995 SCF Data Files 685
Appendix 2 Construction of the 1969 MESP Dataset 711
Appendix 3 Estimation of Retirement Wealth 731