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Massive new data set suggests economic inequality is about to get even worse

Washington Post – “…inquiries into how fast wealth grows relative to the economy have been hampered by a lack of good, complete, comparable long-term data on the rates of return for various assets: stocks, bonds, real estate and the like. You’d want this to know what you’d expect a “natural” rate of return to be in an economy such as ours: How much would you expect home prices to appreciate over time? What about the expected return on the stock market over the decades? How about government bonds? Now a working paper, written by Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco economist Òscar Jordà and others, purports to calculate just that: “The Rate of Return on Everything.” After compiling this first-of-its-kind data set, Jordà’s team makes a startling conclusion: If anything, Piketty’s book underestimates the historical rate of return on wealth. “The same fact reported [by Piketty] holds true for more countries and more years, and more dramatically,” the researchers conclude. Wealth accumulates faster — much faster — than economies can keep up. If this is true, it means that in coming years, wealth inequality could grow even faster than Piketty feared. The gap between wealth accumulation and economic growth has been a constant feature of the world’s most advanced economies for nearly the entire period from 1870 to 2015, the researchers found. They compiled a database of the annual rate of return on four major types of wealth: government bonds, treasury bills, stocks and residential real estate…”

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