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Differences in the measurement and structure of wealth using alternative data sources: the case of the UK

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Abstract

In this paper, we identify methodological differences and similarities in the measurement of wealth using survey data constructed for different purposes in the U.K. and separately for England. The focus of the paper is on two prominent surveys in the U.K.: the English Longitudinal Survey of Ageing (ELSA) and the British Household Panel Survey (BHPS). We find conceptual differences in the measurement of financial assets and debt. At the same time, striking similarities exist in the measurement of non-financial assets. For the most part, many differences arise in the tails of the distributions of wealth. Comparable definitions of overall wealth in the surveys lead us to find a 10% and 3% difference in mean and conditional median of total net worth, respectively. Reassuring is the fact that inequality results carried out with the two surveys support one another and quantile regression shows that the distribution of total net worth across demographic groups is similar in the two surveys.

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