Capital and Wealth in the 21st Century

20 Pages Posted: 2 Feb 2015

See all articles by David N. Weil

David N. Weil

Brown University - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Date Written: January 2015


In Capital in the 21st Century, Thomas Piketty uses the market value of tradeable assets to measure both productive capital and wealth. As a measure of wealth this is problematic because it ignores the value of human capital and transfer wealth, which have grown enormously over the last 300 years. Thus the constancy of the wealth/income ratio as portrayed in his data is an illusion. Further, the types of wealth that he does not measure are more equally distributed than tradeable assets. The approach also incorrectly identifies capital gains due to reduced discount rates as increases in the capital stock.

Suggested Citation

Weil, David Nathan, Capital and Wealth in the 21st Century (January 2015). NBER Working Paper No. w20919. Available at SSRN:

David Nathan Weil (Contact Author)

Brown University - Department of Economics ( email )

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