NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Analysis of Wealth Using Micro and Macro Data: A Comparison of the Survey of Consumer Finances and Flow of Funds Accounts

Alice M. Henriques, Joanne W. Hsu


This chapter is a preliminary draft unless otherwise noted. It may not have been subjected to the formal review process of the NBER. This page will be updated as the chapter is revised.

Chapter in forthcoming NBER book Measuring Economic Sustainability and Progress, Dale W. Jorgenson, J. Steven Landefeld, and Paul Schreyer, editors
Conference held August 6-8, 2012
Forthcoming from University of Chicago Press
in NBER Book Series Studies in Income and Wealth

Researchers use different types of household balance sheet data to study different aspects of lifecycle saving and wealth accumulation behavior. Macro data from the Flow of Funds Accounts (FFA) are produced at a quarterly frequency and are available in a timely manner, but they can only be used to study the behavior of the household sector as a whole. Micro data from the Survey of Consumer Finances (SCF) are available every three years and only with a lag, but they can be used to address questions that involve differences in behavior over time and across various types of households. Despite the very different approaches to estimating household net worth, the two data sets show the same general patterns of wealth changes over the past twenty-five years. Areas where the FFA and SCF diverge in aggregate levels—in categories such as owner-occupied housing, non-corporate equity, and credit cards—may be explained by methodological differences in the production of the data. Those differences do not fundamentally alter one’s perception of household wealth dynamics in the period leading up to and following the Great Recession.

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