Wealth begets wealth. This simple concept of privilege has added to growing discontent with inequality that has escalated under the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic.
A paper co-authored this year by economists from the IMF and other institutions confirms that wealthier people are more likely to earn higher returns on their investments. It also shows that the children of wealthy people, while likely to inherit that wealth, aren’t necessarily going to make the same high returns on investments.
Detailed data on wealth are extremely rare, but 12-years of tax records (2004-2015) from Norway have opened a new window into wealth accumulation for individuals and their offspring. The Nordic country has a wealth tax that requires assets to be reported by employers, banks and other third parties in order to reduce errors from self-reporting. The data, which are made public under certain conditions, also make it possible to match parents with their children.
The data show that an individual in the 75th percentile of wealth distribution who invested $1 in 2004 would have yielded $1.50 by the end of 2015—a return of 50 percent. A person in the top 0.1 percent would have yielded $2.40 on the same invested dollar—a return of 140 […]