Social Security and Trends in Wealth Inequality
68 Pages Posted: 14 Apr 2020 Last revised: 10 Nov 2023
Date Written: February 29, 2020
Recent influential work finds large increases in inequality in the U.S. based on measures of wealth concentration that notably exclude the value of social insurance programs. This paper shows that top wealth shares have not changed much over the last three decades when Social Security is properly accounted for. This is because Social Security wealth increased substantially from $7 trillion in 1989 to $39 trillion in 2019 and now represents 49% of the wealth of the bottom 90% of the wealth distribution. This finding is robust to potential changes to taxes and benefits in response to system financing concerns.
Keywords: Social Security, Inequality, Top Wealth Shares
JEL Classification: D31, E21, G51, H55, N32
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