The "law" of wealth concentration

kelley kwalker2 at
Wed Aug 16 13:51:02 PDT 2000

At 03:36 PM 8/16/00 -0400, Doug Henwood wrote:
>Carl Remick quoted:
>>Every country in the world has a few rich people and then a long tail of
>>poorer and poorer people. In fact, not only does a filthy-rich minority
>>always hog most of the wealth, but the mathematical form of the
>>distribution is the same everywhere.
>"Almost the same" is a bit overstated. I'm curious what data they use on
>wealth distribution, since there's not much in the way of internationally
>comparable data. There is with income distribution, the Luxembourg Income
>Study, and there are some differences between countries that are less
>trivial than this piece would lead you to believe.
>For example, I just happened to be reading a study by Chicago Fed
>economists comparing income distribution in five countries
>In the U.S., the income of a household (after taxes and transfers) at the
>80th percentile is 9 times that of one at the 20th. In Canada, it's 6; in
>Germany, 5; in Sweden and FInland, 4. Those aren't minor differences.
>Apropos of a thread the other day, the article also makes the point that
>the U.S. has the most progressive income tax of the 5 countries, with
>Sweden and Finland having a near-proportional (flat) income tax. But the
>tax system has only a minor effect on the distribution of after-tax
>income; what matters is the transfer system. Nathan had a hard time
>believing this, but it's right there in black & white.

transfer system? what's that? the way those tax revenues are dist and used in programs?

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