August 2021

A Wealth of Information: Augmenting the Survey of Consumer Finances to Characterize the Full U.S. Wealth Distribution

Jesse Bricker, Sarena Goodman, Kevin B. Moore, Alice Henriques Volz


We use the Survey of Consumer Finances (SCF) to advance U.S. wealth analysis along several dimensions. We develop a comprehensive framework that modifies the SCF to recover the wealth distribution over families, tax units, and individuals from 1989 to 2019. We show that, by ignoring unequal holdings within families, existing estimates considerably understate U.S. inequality across individuals. We find wealth concentration rose through the recent economic recovery, which differs from leading models that capitalize income into wealth even after aligning conceptual differences. We illustrate that private businesses are a growing impediment to accurately modeling wealth from income.

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Last Update: February 04, 2022