Measuring Income and Wealth at the Top Using Administrative and Survey Data
Administrative tax data indicate that U.S. top income and wealth shares are substantial and increasing rapidly (Piketty and Saez 2003, Saez and Zucman 2014). A key reason for using administrative data to measure top shares is to overcome the under-representation of families at the very top that plagues most household surveys. However, using tax records alone restricts the unit of analysis for measuring economic resources, limits the concepts of income and wealth being measured, and imposes a rigid correlation between income and wealth. The Survey of Consumer Finances (SCF) solves the ...
Trends in Household Portfolio Composition
We use data from the Survey of Consumer Finances (SCF) to explore how household asset portfolios in the United States have evolved from 1989 to 2016. Throughout this period, two key assets?housing and financial market assets?have driven the aggregate household balance sheet evolution. However, aggregates mask great heterogeneity in balance sheet composition across the wealth distribution, and most families hold a relatively small share of assets in financial markets and larger shares in housing and other nonfinancial assets. We also describe the typical life cycle asset accumulation processes ...
Survey Incentives, Survey Effort, and Survey Costs
This paper uses the 2007 and 2010 waves of the Survey of Consumer Finances (SCF) to investigate how monetary incentives affect the time and effort that interviewers expend during the survey field period, and how these incentives affect effort expended by the survey respondent. The results imply that a larger monetary incentive offer helps reduce contact attempts and time in the field while maintaining data quality and effort during the survey by the respondent. Our results are based on a quasi-experiment that varies which families receive an incentive offer letter. Supporting evidence is ...
The Increase in Wealth Concentration, 1989-2013
Wealth is highly concentrated in the United States, and top shares have been rising in recent decades, raising both normative and macroeconomic policy concerns.
Changes in U.S. Family Finances from 2010 to 2013: Evidence from the Survey of Consumer Finances
The Federal Reserve Board’s triennial Survey of Consumer Finances (SCF) collects information about family incomes, net worth, balance sheet components, credit use, and other financial outcomes.1 The 2013 SCF reveals substantial disparities in the evolution of income and net worth since the previous time the survey was conducted, in 2010.
Signaling Status: The Impact of Relative Income on Household Consumption and Financial Decisions
This paper investigates the importance of status in household consumption and financial decisions using household data from the Survey of Consumer Finances (SCF) linked to neighborhood data in the American Community Survey (ACS). We find evidence that a household's income rank--its position in the income distribution relative to its close neighbors--is positively associated with its expenditures on high status cars, its level of indebtedness, as well as the riskiness of the household's portfolio. More aggregate county-level evidence based on a dataset of every new car sold in each county in ...
Wealth Concentration Levels and Growth: 1989-2016
Wealth concentration in the U.S. has increased over the past 25 years across multiple methodologies for measuring wealth. But the reasons for the increase—and the timing of the increase—are quite different. In this note, we show that most available estimates are fairly consistent in level and trend prior to the Financial Crisis. However, the timing and reasons for the sharp increase in wealth concentration during and after the crisis differ remarkably across methods. We describe some of the factors that underlie this divergence.
Stress Testing Household Debt
We estimate a county-level model of household delinquency and use it to conduct "stress tests" of household debt. Applying house price and unemployment rate shocks from Comprehensive Capital Analysis Review (CCAR) stress tests, we find that forecasted delinquency rates for the recent stock of debt are moderately lower than for the stock of debt before the 2007-09 financial crisis, given the same set of shocks. This decline in expected delinquency rates under stress reflects an improvement in debt-to-income ratios and an increase in the share of debt held by borrowers with relatively high ...
Surveying the aftermath of the storm: changes in family finances from 2007 to 2009
In 2009, the Federal Reserve Board implemented a survey of families that participated in the 2007 Survey of Consumer Finances (SCF) to gain detailed information on the effects of the recent recession on all types of households. Using data from the 2007-09 SCF panel, we highlight the variation in households' financial experiences by examining the distribution of changes in families' balance sheets. Further, we use information on changes in families' saving, investing, and spending behavior to consider the potential longer-term consequences of the current recession on households' finances and ...
Introducing the Distributional Financial Accounts of the United States
This paper describes the construction of the Distributional Financial Accounts (DFAs), a new dataset containing quarterly estimates of the distribution of U.S. household wealth since 1989, and provides the first look at the resulting data. The DFAs build on two existing Federal Reserve Board statistical products --- quarterly aggregate measures of household wealth from the Financial Accounts of the United States and triennial wealth distribution measures from the Survey of Consumer Finances --- to incorporate distributional information into a national accounting framework. The DFAs complement ...