Estimates of Private Wealth in Italy after Unification: Historiography and Statistical Method

24 Pages Posted: 28 Jul 2008

Date Written: June 16, 2008


From the 1880s to the outbreak of the First World War a good number of European scholars produced applied economic-statistical works estimating the wealth held by private individuals. The twofold aim of this body of literature was to compare countries' economic potential and measure the evolution of single national economies over time. Italian economists and statisticians had an especially strong interest in these topics. This essay deals with their writings. The design is strictly empirical. The idea is to test the possibility of supplementing and completing the efforts of those scholars in extracting useful information from a paucity of data, and ultimately to produce a preliminary estimate of the time series of private wealth from 1872 to 1913, which is the main result of the test. The data are those used by the scholars of the day: the value of assets inherited as ascertained by the tax authorities for the inheritance tax. This essay is motivated by our conviction that a well-founded effort to construct a time series for wealth in post-unification Italy must begin by coming to grips with the contemporary literature on the topic and with the data underlying it.

Keywords: private wealth, inheritance tax, tax evasion, mortality tables, de Foville method, capitalization method, inventory method, multipliers method

JEL Classification: C49, N33

Suggested Citation

Baffigi, Alberto, Estimates of Private Wealth in Italy after Unification: Historiography and Statistical Method (June 16, 2008). Bank of Italy Research Paper No. A11, Available at SSRN: or

Alberto Baffigi (Contact Author)

Bank of Italy ( email )

Via Nazionale 91
Rome, 00184

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