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Where is the middle class? : Inequality, gender and the shape of the upper tail from 60 million English death and probate records, 1892-2016

Cummins, Neil, author

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Summary

  • This paper analyses a newly constructed individual level dataset of every English death and probate from 1892-2016. The estimated top wealth shares match closely existing estimates. However, this analysis clearly shows that the 20th century's 'Great Equalization' of wealth stalled in mid-century. The probate rate, which captures the proportion of English with any significant wealth at death rose from 10% in the 1890s to 40% by 1950 and has stagnated to 2016. Despite the large declines in the wealth share of the top 1%, from 73% to 20%, the median English person died with almost nothing throughout. All changes in inequality after 1950 involve a reshuffling of wealth within the top 30%. Further, I find that a log-linear distribution fits the empirical data better than a Pareto power law. Finally, I show that the top wealth shares are increasingly and systematically male as one ascends in wealth, 1892-1992, but this has equalized over the 20th century.

Notes

  • "Published 09 January 2019"
  • "Submitted 08 January 2019"
  • Includes bibliographical references (pages 27-30).
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