Econometrica: Jan 2020, Volume 88, Issue 1

Heterogeneity and Persistence in Returns to Wealth

https://doi.org/10.3982/ECTA14835
p. 115-170

Andreas Fagereng, Luigi Guiso, Davide Malacrino, Luigi Pistaferri

We provide a systematic analysis of the properties of individual returns to wealth using 12 years of population data from Norway's administrative tax records. We document a number of novel results. First, individuals earn markedly different average returns on their net worth (a standard deviation of 22.1%) and on its components. Second, heterogeneity in returns does not arise merely from differences in the allocation of wealth between safe and risky assets: returns are heterogeneous even within narrow asset classes. Third, returns are positively correlated with wealth: moving from the 10th to the 90th percentile of the net worth distribution increases the return by 18 percentage points (and 10 percentage points if looking at net‐of‐tax returns). Fourth, individual wealth returns exhibit substantial persistence over time. We argue that while this persistence partly arises from stable differences in risk exposure and assets scale, it also reflects heterogeneity in sophistication and financial information, as well as entrepreneurial talent. Finally, wealth returns are correlated across generations. We discuss the implications of these findings for several strands of the wealth inequality debate.



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Supplemental Material

Supplement to "Heterogeneity and Persistence in Returns to Wealth"

In this Online Appendix we provide supplementary material to the article. In particular, Section OA.1 contains detailed information on the data sources and variables used in the analyses. Section OA.2 details how we estimate net saving flows to perform the Dietz’ adjustment to our return measures. Section OA.3 discusses the bias from not observing the timing of net saving flows. Section OA.4 details the imputation of defined contribution private pension wealth; Section OA.5 discusses issues related to the imputation of services from safe assets; Section OA.6 how we construct the β's for the stock market portfolio, private equity, and housing. Finally, Section OA.7 shows how we correct estimates of the higher moments of the fixed effect estimates to account for small-T bias. Additional figures and tables are in Section OA.8 and Section OA.9, respectively.

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Supplement to "Heterogeneity and Persistence in Returns to Wealth"

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