ISR Awards

Building a New National Data Infrastructure for the Study of Wealth Inequality and Wealth Mobility

The creation and analysis of intergenerationally linked U.S. tax data has revolutionized
the study of income inequality and mobility. Building on that scientific breakthrough, this project will create, analyze, and distribute intergenerationally linked, tax record-based proxy measures of wealth, rather than income, for the entire United States. Studying wealth in addition to income is important as the two are far from perfectly correlated, wealth is much more unequally distributed, and wealth plays an independent role in the intergenerational transmission of advantage. However, the currently available U.S. data infrastructure does not support even basic descriptions of geographic variation in the level of wealth holdings, the degree of wealth inequality, and, even less so, the extent of wealth mobility across generations.

Based on an approved project under the IRS Statistics of Income (SOI) Joint Statistical Research Program, we are in a unique position to alleviate these data limitations. Through direct access to individual-level and full population IRS tax data, we will create proxy measures of the wealth holdings of all U.S. taxpayer units and link them across generations, extending pioneering work by Chetty al collaborators as well as Saez and Zucman. We will analyze the level, inequality, and intergenerational mobility of wealth across all U.S. taxpayers and will distribute geographic aggregates of these measures to the scientific research community and broader public. As a public infrastructure, these data will support novel analyses of wealth inequality and mobility and their policy determinants at a time during which the extreme level of U.S. wealth inequality and the transmission of wealth across generations are widely debated.