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 ...
Is the Consumer Expenditure Survey representative by income?
Aggregate under-reporting of household spending in the Consumer Expenditure Survey (CE) can result from two fundamental types of measurement errors: higher-income households (who presumably spend more than average) are under-represented in the CE estimation sample, or there is systematic under-reporting of spending by at least some CE survey respondents. Using a new data set linking CE units to zip-code level average Adjusted Gross Income (AGI), we show that the very highest-income households are less likely to respond to the survey when they are sampled, but unit non-response rates are not ...
The annuitization of Americans' resources: a cohort analysis
An analysis of the changes since 1960 in the share of Americans' resources that are annuitized, which has declined slightly for younger Americans but has risen dramatically for the elderly, with important implications for the national saving rate and income inequality.
Understanding the postwar decline in United States saving: a cohort analysis
An analysis of the postwar decline in U.S. national saving that decomposes changes in the net national saving rate into those due to changes in cohort-specific consumption propensities, the intergenerational distribution of resources, the rate of government spending, and demographics. ; A review and expansion of Calomiris, Kahn, and Longhofer's (1994) cultural affinity theory of discrimination in the residential mortgage market, which is based on the idea that lenders find it easier or less costly to evaluate the creditworthiness of applicants with whom they have a common experiential ...
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.
The Evolution of Retirement Wealth
Is the current mix of tax preferences for employer-sponsored pensions and individual retirement saving in the U.S. delivering the best possible retirement-preparedness across and within generations? Using data from the triennial Survey of Consumer Finances for 1989 through 2013, cohort-based analysis of life-cycle trajectories shows that (1) overall retirement plan participation was relatively stable or even rising through 2007, though participation fell noticeably in the wake of the Great Recession and has remained lower, (2) participation is strongly correlated with income, and the shift in ...
Racial Wealth Disparities: Reconsidering the Roles of Human Capital and Inheritance
In this paper, we present updated measures of racial disparities in wealth using the most recent data from the Survey of Consumer Finances (SCF), augmented by household-level estimates of defined benefit (DB) pension wealth developed by Sabelhaus and Volz (2020). Including this important asset, we find that racial wealth disparities are smaller than the numbers typically discussed in other research or in the media, but the disparities remain substantial. The paper proceeds by exploring two specific factors that have long been identified as playing potentially important roles in generating ...
The current state of U.S. household balance sheets
The Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System is responsible for two of the most widely used datasets containing information about U.S. household balance sheets: the quarterly macro-level Financial Accounts of the United States (FA, formerly known as the Flow of Funds Accounts) and the triennial microlevel Survey of Consumer Finances (SCF). The FA is very timely, but the data can be used only to describe the household sector as a whole. The SCF provides the micro-level detail needed to capture heterogeneity in household finances, but the data are available only with a long lag. The ...
Early withdrawals from retirement accounts during the Great Recession
Early withdrawals from retirement accounts are a double-edged sword, because withdrawals reduce retirement resources, but they also allow individuals to smooth consumption when they experience demographic and economic shocks. Using tax data, we show that pre-retirement withdrawals increased between 2004 and 2010, especially after 2007, but early withdrawal rates are substantial (relative to new contributions) in all of those years. Early withdrawal events are strongly correlated with shocks to income and marital status, and lower-income taxpayers are more likely to experience the types of ...