Edward N. Wolff

Professor at New York University

Academic Article

Household wealth trends in the United States, 1983–2010

This study investigates wealth trends from 1983 to 2010. The most telling finding is that median wealth plummeted over the years 2007–10 by 47 per cent. The inequality of net worth, after almost two decades of little movement, was up sharply between 2007 and 2010. Relative indebtedness continued to expand during the late 2000s for the middle class, though the proximate causes were declining net worth and income, rather than an increase in absolute indebtedness. The sharp fall in median net worth and the rise in its inequality from 2007 to 2010 are traceable to the high leverage of middle-class families and the high share of homes in their portfolio. The racial and ethnic disparity in wealth holdings, after remaining more or less stable from 1983 to 2007, widened considerably between 2007 and 2010. Hispanics, in particular, got hammered by the Great Recession in terms of net worth and net equity in their homes. Households under age 45 also got pummelled by the Great Recession, as their relative and absolute wealth declined sharply from 2007 to 2010.

Full paper


Philippe Van Kerm on Wealth, Top Incomes, and Inequality

Although it is heartening to see wealth inequality being taken seriously, key concepts are often muddled, including the distinction between income and wealth, what is included in “wealth”, and facts about wealth distributions. Philippe Van Kerm discusses research (conducted with Frank Cowell, Brian Nolan, and Javier Olivera) that highlights the issues arising in making ideas and facts about wealth inequality precise, and presents newly-available data taking a fresh look at wealth and wealth inequality in a comparative perspective.