Not just r > g but r + q >> g: Piketty meets Ricardo in the long run of Indian history

Developing Economics

Wealth-income ratios are rising everywhere – they are not cyclical but rather unambiguously upward trending for the past three decades. Put simply, the accumulation of wealth is outpacing economic growth. This is true in America, Europe and Japan (Piketty and Zucman 2014), as well as China and Russia (Novokmet, Zucman & Yang 2018). In recent research (Kumar 2018), I found this same trend to persist in the world’s largest democracy – Indian wealth-income ratios have been rising since the 1970s. Why are these trends so similar in countries with such deep structural differences and distinct economic trajectories? By themselves, high wealth-income ratios are not necessarily a social dilemma – they may imply more wealth for everyone. But in general, there is a tendency for wealth to be more concentrated than income. As a result, a rise in wealth over income tends to increase wealth inequality. This is certainly the…

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New thoughts on US wealth inequality: Not simply asset price inflation but high savings and the capitalist spirit

My latest paper in the International Journal of Political Economy (Taylor & Francis)  is now up. This link leads to gated access. Amongst other things, I have developed a simple accounting formula to capture synthetic savings within fractiles. The abstract is summarized below:

Personal savings from top incomes and wealth accumulation in the United States: Results from disaggregated national accounts

This article explores the determinants and distribution of household wealth. Looking at U.S. data since 1980, it finds convincing evidence that top incomes were saved at high rates and contributed to the steady increase in the household wealth–income ratio. First, I rule out counterclaims regarding the role of housing and real estate prices finding little evidence of their influence on the trends and magnitudes of household net worth relative to disposable income. With savings as the remaining explanation, I present an accounting decomposition formula that captures savings rates for any reference group using the dynamics of intergroup accumulation rates. This methodology is applied to data from national accounts, balance sheets, and income distribution statistics in order to compute saving rates for the top 1 percent of households in the U.S. income distribution. The estimates also support the idea that top income earners have outsaved other households, thereby capturing an increasing share of wealth.