Rising inequality: Trends in the distribution of wealth in industrializing New England

Randall G. Holcombe, Donald J. Lacombe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations

Abstract

This article assembles new data and methods for studying wealth inequality trends in industrializing America. Inequality grew sharply between 1820 and 1850, leveled off, and increased steadily between 1870 and 1900. Inequality grew due to compositional changes in the population, but also grew within occupations, age groups, and the native-born population. Proposed labor-market explanations are inconsistent with the fact that wealth inequality between occupational groups was declining. Wealth accumulation patterns are also inconsistent with the hypothesis of child default on responsibilities for old-age care. We propose research on a new explanation based on luck, rents, and entrepreneurship.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)160-183
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Economic History
Volume61
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - 2001

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