Women, Wealth and Mobility

Lena Edlund, Wojciech Kopczuk

NBER Working Paper No. 13162
Issued in June 2007
NBER Program(s):Development of the American Economy, Economic Fluctuations and Growth, Labor Studies, Public Economics, Productivity, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship

The extent of and changes in inter-generational mobility of wealth are central to understanding dynamics of wealth inequality but hard to measure. Using estate tax returns data, we observe that the share of women among the very wealthy (top 0.01%) in the United States peaked in the late 1960s, reaching almost 50%. Three decades on, women's share had declined to one third, a return to pre-war levels. We argue that this pattern mirrors the relative importance of inherited vs. self-made wealth in the economy and thus the gender-composition of the wealthiest may serve as a proxy for inter-generational wealth mobility. This proxy for "dynastic wealth'' suggests that wealth mobility in the past century decreased until the 1970s and rose thereafter, a pattern consistent with technological change driving long term trends in income inequality and mobility. Greater wealth mobility in recent decades is also consistent with the simultaneous rise in top income shares and relatively stable wealth concentration.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w13162

Published: Lena Edlund & Wojciech Kopczuk, 2009. "Women, Wealth, and Mobility," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(1), pages 146-78, March. citation courtesy of

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