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Wealth concentration in a developing economy: Paris and France, 1807-1994

Piketty, Thomas and Postel-Vinay, Gilles and Rosenthal, Jean-Laurent (2006) Wealth concentration in a developing economy: Paris and France, 1807-1994. American Economic Review, 96 (1). pp. 236-256. ISSN 0002-8282. doi:10.1257/000282806776157614.

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Using large samples of estate tax returns, we construct new series on wealth concentration in Paris and France from 1807 to 1994. Inequality increased until 1914 because industrial and financial estates grew dramatically. Then, adverse shocks, rather than a Kuznets-type process, led to a massive decline in inequality. The very high wealth concentration prior to 1914 benefited retired individuals living off capital income (rentiers) rather than entrepreneurs. The very rich were in their seventies and eighties, whereas they had been in their fifties a half century earlier and would be so again after World War II. Our results shed new light on ongoing debates about wealth inequality and growth.

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Additional Information:Copyright © American Economic Association 2006. We thank the Archives de Paris and the Direction Nationale d’Intervention Domaniales du Ministère des Finances for their assistance in data collection; the Guggenheim Foundation, the McArthur Foundation, the Collins Fund at UCLA, the Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique, and the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales for financial support; and Lara Marchi, Madeleine Roux, and Marie Carmen Smyrnelis for help in data collection. Special thanks to Alena Lapatniova and Maria Chichtchenkova for extraordinary research assistance. We also thank Anthony Atkinson, Peter Lindert, Emmanuel Saez, Kenneth Sokoloff, and the participants of the All-UC group in Economic History Group’s conference on the New History of Inequality, for their comments. All our series are available online at A longer version of the paper is available as a CEPR Discussion Paper (Piketty et al., 2004).
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John Simon Guggenheim FoundationUNSPECIFIED
McArthur FoundationUNSPECIFIED
Institut National de la Recherche AgronomiqueUNSPECIFIED
Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences SocialesUNSPECIFIED
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Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:13229
Deposited By: Lindsay Cleary
Deposited On:03 Feb 2009 19:18
Last Modified:08 Nov 2021 22:36

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