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Introduction to "Modeling the Distribution and Intergenerational Transmission of Wealth"

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Introduction to "Modeling the Distribution and Intergenerational Transmission of Wealth" This PDF is a selection from an out-of-print volume from the National Bureau of Economic Research Volume Title: Modeling the Distribution and Intergenerational Transmission of Wealth Volume Author/Editor: James D. Smith, ed. Volume Publisher: University of Chicago Press Volume ISBN: 0-226-76454-0 Volume URL: http://www.nber.org/books/smit80-1 Publication Date: 1980 Chapter Title: Introduction to "Modeling the Distribution and Intergenerational Transmission of Wealth" Chapter Author: James D. Smith Chapter URL: http://www.nber.org/chapters/c7442 Chapter pages in book: (p. 1 - 8) Introduction James D. Smith The papers in this volume are from the first meeting of the Conference on Research in Income and Wealth to be devoted primarily to the dy- namics of the personal distribution of wealth. The meeting reflects a changing concern by economists from measuring the cross-sectional dis- tribution of wealth to modeling the processes by which wealth is accu- mulated and transmitted through time to successive generations. The relatively small share of the profession’s resources devoted to issues of personal wealth prior to 1975 was almost entirely channeled into measuring cross-sectional distributi0ns.l The history of these mea- surements in the United States dates back to the 1850 census, but only a handful of researchers were involved in such activities until after World War II.z The 1860 and 1870 censuses also included queries about asset holding, but none of the census data was ever published, and with the exception of house value, questions on asset values have never reap- peared in the census.3 Following the census measurements, scattered attempts were made to estimate distributions of wealth. For instance, in 1927 W. I. King pub- lished estimates for 1921 (King 1927). The Federal Trade Commission published information from over forty-three thousand probated

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