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The concentration of personal wealth in Italy 1995–2016

Acciari, Paolo, Alvaredo, Facundo and Morelli, Salvatore (2023) The concentration of personal wealth in Italy 1995–2016. III Working Paper (88). International Inequalities Institute, London School of Economics and Political Science, London, UK.

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Italy is one the countries with the highest wealth-to-income ratio in the developed world, but knowledge about the size distribution of wealth is currently limited. In this paper we estimate the distribution of personal wealth between 1995 and 2016, a period of economic turbulence and structural reforms. For this, we use a novel source on the full records of inheritance tax files, combined with surveys and national accounts. Unlike available statistics from household surveys alone, our estimates point to a sharp inversion of fortunes between the top and the bottom of the wealth distribution since the mid-1990s. Whereas the level of wealth concentration in Italy is in line with other European countries, its time trend appears more in line with the U.S., showing a large increase. Moreover, Italy stands out as one of the countries with the strongest decline in the wealth share of the bottom 50% of the population. A range of alternative series of wealth concentration, including estimates applying no adjustments and imputations, confirm our main findings. The paper also sheds new light on the determinants of wealth inequality trends. First, we show that although average wealth increases with age, dispersion within age groups remains very high; hence age plays a marginal role in explaining wealth concentration. Second, we show that house prices explain little of the change in wealth across the distribution since 1995. Changes in equity prices account for a large share of wealth growth above the 99th percentile. However, all in all, changes in the volume of assets and savings appear to be the predominant force behind the increase in wealth inequality, even at the top. The probability of top earners to climb to the top of the wealth distribution has doubled since the 2000s. Third, we document the growing role of life-time wealth transfers receipts, their increasing concentration at the top, and their increasingly favourable tax treatment for the wealthy.

Item Type: Monograph (Working Paper)
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2023 The Authors
Divisions: International Inequalities Institute
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HC Economic History and Conditions
H Social Sciences > HB Economic Theory
JEL classification: D - Microeconomics > D3 - Distribution > D30 - General
H - Public Economics > H2 - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue > H24 - Personal Income and Other Nonbusiness Taxes and Subsidies
N - Economic History > N3 - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Income, and Wealth > N30 - Economic History: Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Income and Wealth: General, International, or Comparative (Migration)
Date Deposited: 27 Apr 2023 08:15
Last Modified: 15 Sep 2023 23:59

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