Cambridge, Massachusetts :, The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press,, 2017.
xv, 865 pages ; 25 cm
I. Recent developments in personal wealth: Plan of the book and historical backdrop
Trends in household wealth, 1962 to 2013
Changing portfolio composition and the rate of return on household wealth
International comparisons of household wealth inequality
II. Mechanisms behind changing wealth inequality: Deconstructing wealth trends, 1983-2013
Age-wealth profiles and the life cycle model: implications for wealth accumulation
Inheritances and the distribution of wealth
The role of social security and private pensions
III. Who are the rich and the poor?: Wealth differences among socio-economic groups
Who are the rich? A demographic profile of high-income and high-wealth Americans
The persistence of asset poverty
IV. Wealth over the long term: Long-term trends in aggregate household wealth
Long-term trends in the concentration of household wealth
V. Tax policy and conclusion: Wealth taxation
Summary of principal findings and concluding comments.
Edward Wolff, one of the country's leading experts on household wealth, here provides a comprehensive study of wealth in America since 1910. The century brought shifting patterns in the ownership of wealth; Wolff explains the changes, offers ideas about how to reduce inequality, and explores issues in how to measure wealth in the first place. A Century of Wealth in America is not designed to advance one overarching argument; rather, its aim is to provide in one place the accurate information needed to consider many arguments. Still, Wolff presents no fewer than ten major findings in its pages. One of these is that median household wealth has recently returned to the levels of 1969. Another is that the average wealth of black families relative to white families has slipped significantly in recent years, after thirty years of stability. A third finding: the US has changed since 1950 from being one of the most equal countries in the developed world to being one of the most class-ridden. For many readers the book will serve as a complement to Thomas Piketty's Capital in the 21st Century. But while it reinforces Piketty's argument in many ways, it concentrates on wealth (as opposed to income), for example, and says much more about the poor. Wolff's ideas are also different than Piketty's on issues of inheritance (he's less worried about it) and the relationship between r (the rate of return to capital) and g (the overall rate of economic growth). He argues that inequality rises if r for the top one percent is greater than r for the middle class. Finally, thanks to its focus on America, the book provides much more fine-grained detail about the country, not least about the demographics of wealth and poverty.-- Provided by publisher.