This paper argues that the cumulative causation processes between wealth and power risk leading to an escalation of wealth inequality. Piketty's historical description of this development from administrative data for individual countries is corroborated with new survey data for the eurozone, the Household Finance and Consumption Survey (HFCS). Wealth is extremely unequally distributed in the eurozone – much more so than income. Furthermore, we provide a multi-faceted picture of wealth distribution in Europe using the socio-economic characteristics available in the HFCS, and we show that inheritances are the single most important factor for wealth inequality. The structural power to shape economic and political institutions is thus ever more concentrated. Finally, we discuss three channels through which the unequal distribution of private assets may affect power relations and economic activity.
Miriam Rehm and Matthias Schnetzer
Stefan Ederer and Miriam Rehm
If Piketty's main theoretical prediction (r > g leads to rising wealth inequality) is taken to its radical conclusion, then a small elite will own all wealth if capitalism is left to its own devices. We formulate and calibrate a Post-Keynesian model with an endogenous distribution of wealth between workers and capitalists which permits such a corner solution of all wealth held by capitalists. However, it also shows interior solutions with a stable, non-zero wealth share of workers, a stable wealth-to-income ratio, and a stable and positive gap between the profit and the growth rate determined by the Cambridge equation. More importantly, simulations show that the model conforms to Piketty's empirical findings during a transitional phase of increasing wealth inequality, which characterizes the current state of high-income countries: the wealth share of capitalists rises to over 60 per cent, the wealth-to-income ratio increases, and income inequality rises. Finally, we show that the introduction of a wealth tax as suggested by Piketty could neutralize this rise in wealth concentration predicted by our model.