Distributional Financial Accounts
The Distributional Financial Accounts (DFAs) provide a quarterly measure of the distribution of U.S. household wealth since 1989, based on a comprehensive integration of disaggregated household-level wealth data with official aggregate wealth measures. The data set contains the level and share of each balance sheet item on the Financial Accounts' household wealth table (Table B.101.h), for each of four percentile groups of wealth: the top 1 percent, the next 9 percent (i.e., 90th to 99th percentile), the next 40 percent (50th to 90th percentile), and the bottom half (below the 50th percentile). The quarterly frequency makes the data useful for studying the business cycle dynamics of wealth concentration--which are typically difficult to observe in lower-frequency data because peaks and troughs often fall between times of measurement. These data will be updated about 10 or 11 weeks after the end of each quarter, making them a timely measure of the distribution of wealth.
The DFAs integrate two data products produced by the Federal Reserve Board: the Financial Accounts of the United States, which provide quarterly data on aggregate balance sheets of major sectors of the U.S. economy, and the Survey of Consumer Finances (SCF), which provides comprehensive triennial microdata on the assets and liabilities of a representative sample of U.S. households.
The DFAs use distributional information from the SCF to allocate the Financial Accounts aggregate measures of assets and liabilities to different segments of the wealth distribution. Because the two datasets use somewhat different wealth concepts and are measured at different frequencies, there are three key steps in constructing the DFAs. The first step is to reconcile the concepts and measures used in the two datasets in order to obtain comparable household balance sheets. The second step is to transform the reconciled SCF balance sheet (which is measured every three years) into an up-to-date, quarterly balance sheet by interpolating the assets and liabilities for each wealth-percentile group on a quarterly basis between SCF surveys, and forecasting these balance sheets for each quarter beyond the most recent survey year. The final step is to calculate the shares of assets and liabilities held by the different groups each quarter from this quarterly version of the reconciled SCF data, and then distribute the Financial Accounts aggregates by applying these shares. The associated FEDS Paper provides details on the construction of the data and a discussion of the main findings.