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Where is the middle class? Evidence from 60 million English death and probate records, 1892–1992

Cummins, Neil (2021) Where is the middle class? Evidence from 60 million English death and probate records, 1892–1992. Journal of Economic History, 81 (2). 359 - 404. ISSN 0022-0507

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Identification Number: 10.1017/S0022050721000164

Abstract

This article analyzes a newly constructed individual level dataset of every English death and probate from 1892–1992. This analysis shows that the twentieth century’s “Great Equalization” of wealth stalled in mid-century. The probate rate, which captures the proportion of English holding any significant wealth at death rose from 10 percent in the 1890s to 40 percent by 1950 and has stagnated to 1992. Despite the large declines in the wealth share of the top 1 percent, from 73 to 20 percent, the median English individual died with almost nothing throughout. All changes in inequality after 1950 involve a reshuffling of wealth within the top 30 percent. I translate the individual level data to synthetic households; the majority have at least one member probated. Yet the bottom 60 percent of households hold only 12 percent of all wealth, at their peak wealth-holding level, in the early 1990s. I also compare the new wealth data with existing estimates of top wealth shares, home-ownership trends, wealth survey distributions, aggregate wealth, and the wealth Gini coefficient.

Item Type: Article
Official URL: https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/journal-of...
Additional Information: © 2021 The Author
Divisions: Economic History
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HT Communities. Classes. Races
H Social Sciences > HC Economic History and Conditions
JEL classification: N - Economic History > N3 - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Income, and Wealth > N33 - Economic History: Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Income and Wealth: Europe: Pre-1913
N - Economic History > N3 - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Income, and Wealth > N34 - Economic History: Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Income and Wealth: Europe: 1913-
Date Deposited: 10 Jun 2021 14:00
Last Modified: 20 Sep 2021 04:13
URI: http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/id/eprint/110826

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