NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

The Role of Permanent Income and Demographics in Black/White Differences in Wealth

Joseph G. Altonji, Ulrich Doraszelski

NBER Working Paper No. 8473
Issued in September 2001
NBER Program(s):   LS   PE

We explore the extent to which the huge race gap in wealth can be explained with properly constructed income and demographic variables. In some instances we explain the entire wealth gap with income and demographics provided that we estimate the wealth model on a sample of whites. However, we typically explain a much smaller fraction when we estimate the wealth model on a black sample. Using sibling comparisons to control for intergenerational transfers and the effects of adverse history, we find that differences in income and demographics are not likely to account for the lower explanatory power of the black wealth models. Our analysis of growth models of wealth suggests that differences in savings behavior and/or rates of return play an important role.

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Published: Altonji, Joseph G. and Ulrich Doraszelski. "The Role of Permanent Income and Demographics in Black/White Differences in Wealth." Journal of Human Resources 40, 1 (Winter 2005): 1-30.

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