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Wealth Concentration over the Path of Development: Sweden, 1873-2006

by Jesper Roine (with D. Waldenström), published in the Scandinavian Journal of Economics

We study wealth concentration in Sweden over 130 years, from the beginning of industrialization until the present day. Our series are based on new evidence from estate and wealth tax data, foreign and domestic family firm-wealth, and pension wealth estimates. We find that Swedish wealth concentration was high in the agrarian state, and changed little during early industrialization. From World War I until about 1950, the richest percentile lost ground to high-income earners in the rest of the top-wealth decile. This equalization continued postwar; the entire top decile lost-out relative to the rest of the population. Around 1980, wealth compression stopped and inequality increased. We approximate the effects of international flows and find that the recent increase in wealth inequality is probably larger than what official estimates suggest.

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