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Income and Wealth Distribution


 
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Wealth in America: Policies to Support Mobility (Research Brief)
Signe-Mary McKernan, Caleb Quakenbush, Caroline Ratcliffe, C. Eugene Steuerle

What role can policymakers play in helping families rebuild their balance sheets after the Great Recession and in helping young families, families of color, and those with less education who were falling behind even prior to it? This brief, based on a convening of nearly 25 national wealth-building experts, presents the facts and identifies four promising policy reforms: (1) providing universal children’s savings accounts; (2) reforming the mortgage interest deduction to better target incentives; (3) expanding access to retirement accounts and automatic enrollment; and (4) promoting emergency savings while addressing barriers such as asset tests in safety net programs.

Posted to Web: July 22, 2014Publication Date: July 22, 2014

Flattening Tax Incentives for Retirement Saving (Research Report)
Barbara Butrica, Benjamin H. Harris, Pamela Perun, C. Eugene Steuerle

Under current law, a large share of tax benefits for retirement saving accrues to high-income employees. We simulate the short- and long-term effect of three policy options for flattening tax incentives and increasing retirement savings for low- and middle-income workers. Our results show that reducing 401(k) contribution limits increases taxes for high-income taxpayers; expanding the saver's credit raises saving incentives and lower taxes for low- and middle-income taxpayers; and replacing the exclusion for retirement saving contributions with a 25 percent refundable credit benefits primarily low- and middle-income taxpayers, and raises taxes and reduces retirement assets for high-income taxpayers.

Posted to Web: June 30, 2014Publication Date: June 30, 2014

Do Racial Disparities in Private Transfers Help Explain the Racial Wealth Gap?: New Evidence From Longitudinal Data (Research Report)
Signe-Mary McKernan, Caroline Ratcliffe, Margaret Simms, Sisi Zhang

How do private transfers differ by race and ethnicity, and do such differences explain the racial and ethnic disparity in wealth? Using panel data and a family-level fixed-effect model, we find that African Americans and Hispanics (immigrant and nonimmigrant) receive less in both financial support and large gifts and inheritances than whites. Large gifts and inheritances, but not net financial support received, are related to wealth increases for African American and white families. Overall, we estimate that the African American shortfall in large gifts and inheritances accounts for 12 percent of the white-black racial wealth gap.

Related Publications

Does Financial Support and Inheritance Contribute to the Racial Wealth Gap?

Private Transfers, Race, and Wealth



Posted to Web: May 28, 2014Publication Date: May 20, 2014

Self-Employment, Family-Business Ownership, and Economic Mobility (Research Report)
Elizabeth Brown, Austin Nichols

Surprisingly little is known about whether self-employment and family businesses promote mobility, despite a recurring theme in the policy discourse of families achieving upward economic and social mobility through entrepreneurship. The rewards of entrepreneurship can be great for those who succeed, but the risks are also greater. Looking over numerous decades of panel data on Americans, we document that family-business owners have more upward mobility and less downward mobility than wage-and-salary workers, but that the self-employed do not outperform other workers.

Posted to Web: May 28, 2014Publication Date: May 28, 2014

Disparities in Wealth Accumulation and Loss from the Great Recession and Beyond (Research Report)
Signe-Mary McKernan, Caroline Ratcliffe, C. Eugene Steuerle, Sisi Zhang

And here's the abstract for the published version, which can be included on it’s own landing page with the publication link under it's published title: Using over two decades of Survey of Consumer Finances data and a pseudo-panel technique, we measure the impact of the Great Recession on US family wealth relative to the counterfactual of what wealth would have been given wealth accumulation trajectories. Our synthetic cohort-level models find that the Great Recession reduced average family wealth by 28.5 percent–nearly double the magnitude of previous pre-post mean descriptive estimates and double the magnitude of any previous recession since the 1980s. The housing market was only part of the story; all major wealth components fell as a result of the Great Recession.

Posted to Web: May 01, 2014Publication Date: May 01, 2014

Impact of the Great Recession and Beyond: Disparities in Wealth Building by Generation and Race (Occasional Paper)
Signe-Mary McKernan, Caroline Ratcliffe, C. Eugene Steuerle, Sisi Zhang

This paper uses over two decades of Survey of Consumer Finances data and a pseudo-panel technique to measure the impact of the Great Recession on wealth relative to the counterfactual of what wealth would have been given wealth accumulation trajectories. Our regression-adjusted synthetic cohort-level models find that the Great Recession reduced the wealth of American families by 28.5 percent—nearly double the magnitude of previous pre-post mean descriptive estimates and double the magnitude of any previous recession since the 1980s. The housing market was only part of the story; all major wealth components fell as a result of the Great Recession.

Posted to Web: April 22, 2014Publication Date: April 22, 2014

Educational Attainment and Earnings Inequality among US-Born Men: A Lifetime Perspective (Research Report)
Josh Mitchell

This report tracks the lifetime earnings of men born in the U.S. between 1940 and 1974, focusing on how earnings differences by educational attainment, age, and year of birth have evolved. Both annual and lifetime earnings inequality increased dramatically for men born in the mid-1950s onward. That increase reflects both absolute earnings gains to highly educated workers (especially those with more than a four-year college degree) and absolute earnings losses to less educated workers. Earnings inequality also increases substantially among those with the same level of educational attainment, complicating standard assumptions about the lifetime value of a college degree.

Posted to Web: April 08, 2014Publication Date: April 08, 2014

A Comparison of State Minimum Wages (Article/Tax Facts)
Norton Francis, Yuri Shadunsky

This Tax Fact examines minimum wages across states. The current federal minimum wage, which applies to almost all employees, is $7.25 per hour — unchanged since 2010. The District of Columbia and 21 states set minimum wages higher than the federal rate.

Posted to Web: April 01, 2014Publication Date: March 31, 2014

Raising Medicare Premiums for Higher-Income Beneficiaries: Assessing the Implications (Policy Briefs)
Juliette Cubanski, Tricia Neuman, Gretchen Jacobson, Karen E. Smith

As policymakers consider ways to slow the growth in Medicare spending as part of broader efforts to reduce the federal debt or offset the cost of other spending priorities, some have proposed to increase beneficiary contributions through higher Medicare premiums. Some proposals would increase Medicare premiums paid by all beneficiaries, while others would raise premiums only for beneficiaries with higher incomes. This issue brief explains provisions of current law that impose income-related premiums under Medicare Part B and Part D, describes recent proposals to modify these requirements, and analyzes the potential implications for the Medicare population.

Posted to Web: February 28, 2014Publication Date: January 15, 2014

Income and Assets of Medicare Beneficiaries, 2013 - 2030 (Policy Briefs)
Gretchen Jacobson, Jennifer Huang, Tricia Neuman, Karen E. Smith

Many Medicare beneficiaries live on fixed incomes supplemented by the savings they accumulated during their working years. Their income and savings are tied to many life experiences, including their education, health status, marital status, number of work years, household income, access to employer retirement benefits, inheritance, and various economic factors. As a result, the income and assets of Medicare beneficiaries vary greatly. This brief describes the income and assets of Medicare beneficiaries now and in the future and provides context for understanding the extent to which current and future generations of beneficiaries can afford to absorb higher health care costs.

Posted to Web: February 28, 2014Publication Date: January 09, 2014

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