Journal Of The Econometric Society

An International Society for the Advancement of Economic
Theory in its Relation to Statistics and Mathematics

Edited by: Guido W. Imbens • Print ISSN: 0012-9682 • Online ISSN: 1468-0262

Econometrica: Jan, 2024, Volume 92, Issue 1

Wealth Inequality in a Low Rate Environment
p. 201-246

Matthieu Gomez, Émilien Gouin‐Bonenfant

We study the effect of interest rates on wealth inequality. While lower rates decrease the growth rate of rentiers, they also increase the growth rate of entrepreneurs by making it cheaper to raise capital. To understand which effect dominates, we derive a sufficient statistic for the effect of interest rates on the Pareto exponent of the wealth distribution: it depends on the lifetime equity and debt issuance rate of individuals in the right tail of the wealth distribution. We estimate this sufficient statistic using new data on the trajectory of top fortunes in the U.S. Overall, we find that the secular decline in interest rates (or more generally of required rates of returns) can account for about 40% of the rise in Pareto inequality; that is, the degree to which the super rich pulled ahead relative to the rich.

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Supplemental Material

Supplement to "Wealth Inequality in a Low Rate Environment"

Matthieu Gomez and Émilien Gouin-Bonenfant

This supplemental appendix contains material not found within the manuscript.

Supplement to "Wealth Inequality in a Low Rate Environment"

Matthieu Gomez and Émilien Gouin-Bonenfant

The replication package for this paper is available at The authors were granted an exemption to publish parts of their data because either access to these data is restricted or the authors do not have the right to republish them. However, the authors included in the package, on top of the codes and the parts of the data that are not subject to the exemption, a simulated or synthetic dataset that allows running the codes. The Journal checked the data and the codes for their ability to generate all tables and figures in the paper and approved online appendices. Whenever the available data allowed, the Journal also checked for their ability to reproduce the results. However, the synthetic/simulated data are not designed to produce the same results.