DP11759 Top wealth shares in the UK over more than a century

Author(s): Facundo Alvaredo, Anthony B Atkinson, Salvatore Morelli
Publication Date: January 2017
Keyword(s): estates, mortality multipliers, United Kingdom, United States, Wealth Inequality
JEL(s): D3, H2, N3
Programme Areas: Public Economics
Link to this Page: www.cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=11759

Recent research highlighted controversy about the evolution of concentration of personal wealth. In this paper we provide new evidence about the long-run evolution of top wealth shares for the United Kingdom. The new series covers a long period - from 1895 to the present - and has a different point of departure from the previous literature: the distribution of estates left at death. We find that the application to the estate data of mortality multipliers to yield estimates of wealth among the living does not substantially change the degree of concentration over much of the period both, in the UK and US, allowing inferences to be made for years when this method cannot be applied. The results show that wealth concentration in the UK remained relatively constant during the first wave of globalization, but then decreased dramatically in the period from 1914 to 1979. The UK went from being more unequal in terms of wealth than the US to being less unequal. However, the decline in UK wealth concentration came to an end around 1980, and since then there is evidence of an increase in top shares, notably in the distribution of wealth excluding housing in recent years. We investigate the triangulating evidence provided by data on capital income concentration and on reported super fortunes.