Discussion Paper Details

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Title: Financial and Total Wealth Inequality with Declining Interest Rates

Author(s): Daniel L. Greenwald, Matteo Leombroni, Hanno Lustig and Stijn van Nieuwerburgh

Publication Date: April 2021

Keyword(s): Duration, human wealth, interest rates, secular stagnation and Wealth Inequality

Programme Area(s): Financial Economics and Macroeconomics and Growth

Abstract: Financial wealth inequality and long-term real interest rates track each other closely over the post-war period. Faced with unanticipated lower real rates, households which rely more on financial wealth must see large capital gains to afford the consumption that they planned before the decline in rates. Lower rates beget higher financial wealth inequality. Inequality in total wealth, the sum of financial and human wealth and the relevant concept for household welfare, rises much less than financial wealth inequality and even declines at the top of the wealth distribution. A standard incomplete markets model reproduces the observed increase in financial wealth inequality in response to a decline in real interest rates because high financial-wealth households have a financial portfolio with high duration.

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Bibliographic Reference

Greenwald, D, Leombroni, M, Lustig, H and van Nieuwerburgh, S. 2021. 'Financial and Total Wealth Inequality with Declining Interest Rates'. London, Centre for Economic Policy Research.