Macrohistory Seminar – Jonathan Goupille-Lebret (Paris School of Economics)

Event details

  • | Thursday, June 23
  • 12:15 PM
  • Kaiserplatz 7-9, 4th floor, Room 4.006

Measuring the Distribution of Wealth: Methods and Estimates for France, 1800-2014

with Bertrand Garbinti and Thomas Piketty


This paper aims to reconcile the different data sources and methods that can be used to estimate the distribution of wealth: capitalization method (using income tax data); estate multiplier method (using inheritance tax data); household wealth surveys (based upon self-reported information); annual wealth tax data (when available); billionaire lists. We show that despite their limitations these sources can be reconciled and used jointly in order to deliver consistent, unified wealth distribution series by percentiles for France over the 1800-2014 period, with detailed annual breakdown by age, gender and assets over the 1970-2014 subperiod. We find a significant decline in the top 10% wealth share between from the 1910s to the 1980s (from 80-90% of total wealth during the 19th century up until World War 1, down to 50-60% in the 1980s), mostly to the benefit of the middle 40% of the distribution (the bottom 50% wealth share is always less than 5%). Since the 1980s-1990s, we observe a moderate rise of wealth concentration, with large fluctuations due to asset price movements. We discuss possible interpretations for the long-run pattern, and the extent to which our methods and findings can be extended to other countries.

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