One of Piketty’s little insistences is that inheritance already plays a much more important part in who is rich that it used to in mid-century. And, of course, that this is bad. And thus our little picture of Ms. Hilton. For as far as I know she’s famous for being an heiress. But also, at least as far as I know, she’s not inherited. She has however made her own fortune by being known as a future heiress. Which doesn’t really support Piketty all that much.
Using estate tax returns data, we observe that the share of women among the very wealthy in the United States peaked in the late 1960s at nearly one-half and then declined to one-third. We argue that this pattern reflects changes in the importance of dynastic wealth, with the share of women proxying for inherited wealth. If so, wealth mobility decreased until the 1970s and rose thereafter. Such an interpretation is consistent with technological change driving long-term trends in mobility and inequality, as well as the recent divergence between top wealth and top income shares documented elsewhere.
It is of course possible that all sorts of dire things will happen in the future but shouldn’t we be asking for at least some evidence that they are going to happen, that there are really some trends likely to make them happen, before we drive the rich into penury just because lefties like doing so?