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 ...
Wealth Distribution and Retirement Preparation among Early Savers
This paper develops a new combined-wealth measure by augmenting data on net worth from the Survey of Consumer Finances with estimates of defined benefit (DB) pension and expected Social Security wealth. We use this concept to explore retirement preparation among two groups of households in pre-retirement years (aged 40 through 49 and 50 through 59), and to explore the concentration of wealth. We find evidence of moderate, but rising, shortfalls in retirement preparation. We also show that including DB pension and Social Security wealth results in markedly lower measures of wealth ...
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.
A New Look at Racial Disparities Using a More Comprehensive Wealth Measure
Most research measuring disparities in wealth by race relies on data that exclude resources that are disproportionately important to low-wealth and non-white families, namely defined benefit (DB) pensions and Social Security. This paper finds that once these resources are included, disparities in wealth between white families and Black and Hispanic families are substantially smaller and that they are not rising over time. The powerful equalizing roles of DB pensions and Social Security highlighted here are further motivation for maintaining their fiscal health. This paper also presents ...
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 ...
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.
Wealth and Income Concentration in the SCF: 1989–2019
Using 2019 SCF data, we update estimates of the U.S. wealth and income distributions. These data indicate that wealth concentration in 2019 was similar to the levels seen in 2016 and near the historical high over the 1989–2019 period. Income concentration similarly remains high but declined between 2016 and 2019.
The Distributional Financial Accounts
This Note describes briefly how the Distributional Financial Accounts (DFAs) are constructed and highlights some of their key features.
Are Disappearing Employer Pensions Contributing to Rising Wealth Inequality?
Focusing our attention on families close to retirement, we consider the interplay between employer-sponsored retirement wealth and Social Security.