Reexamining the Distribution of Wealth in 1870
This paper uses data on real and personal property ownership collected in the 1870 Federal Census to explore factors influencing individual wealth accumulation and the aggregate distribution of wealth in the United States near the middle of the nineteenth century. Previous analyses of these data have relied on relatively small samples, or focused on population subgroups. By using the much larger sample available in the Integrated Public Use Microdata Series (IPUMS) we are able to disaggregate the data much more finely than has previously been possible allowing us to explore differences in inequality across space and between different population groups. The data provide strong support for the hypothesis that American industrialization during the nineteenth century resulted in increasing inequality in the distribution of wealth.