Secular Changes in Wealth Inequality and Inheritance

Published: 2001


Data suggest the distribution of wealth among households in the United States and the United Kingdom has become more equal over the last century — though the pattern may have reversed recently. This paper shows that a model in which all households save for life–cycle reasons and some for dynastic purposes as well offers a possible explanation: the model predicts rising cross–sectional equality of wealth when longevity increases. In terms of recent changes, the model suggests that expansion of social security programs and government debt can lead toward more wealth inequality, and that slower growth may do the same.

Key Findings


    John Laitner


    <DIV>This MRRC working paper was subsequently published as:</DIV> <P>Laitner, John. “Secular Changes in Wealth Inequality and Inheritance.” The Economic Journal 111 (October 2001): 691-721.</P> <P>Laitner, John "Simulating the Effects on Inequality and Wealth Accumulation of Eliminating the Federal Estate and Gift Tax in Gale and Slemrod (eds) Rethinking Estate and Gift Taxation." Brookings Institution Press 2001 258-298<BR></P>