I’m getting into the good stuff in Piketty’s 2001: A Capital Odyssey and will have plenty to blog about; in the interim, though, I did a little research of my own. I was digging into CPS data for other reasons and figured, “hey, look, there’s questions about capital income!” So I quickly crunched the numbers on whether, not how much (which is top-coded anyway), American households claim positive gross capital income, by year. And lo and behold:

capital income includes rent


The fraction of American households claiming any gross capital income has declined substantially since Wall Street, from just over two-thirds in the late ’80s to just under half today. There is a hiccup, which is that the rent question asks net of expenses, but if you exclude rent and just examine dividends and interest you get a close-to-identical response.

capital income excludes rent


What’s more remarkable is the uniformity of the trend – while both the levels and the rate of change differed from state to state, every state saw a decline, and almost every state saw the same pattern of steady decline the nation as a whole did. The below chart shows the total percentage-point decline from ’88-’13 in each state:

decline by state


Quick note on Wyoming: the disparity between the two measures is due to one funky data point, in which 2013 capital income jumped 22 percentage points from 2012 to 2013. Included for rigor’s sake, but I’d be surprised if that wasn’t just a blip; otherwise, Wyoming’s trend is very similar using both measures. Also, Alabama is a slightly odd case, as it seems to be the only state that saw a sustained period of increase, from around 45% to 55% in the first decade, and down to below 40% after. Also worth noting that decline isn’t correlated with levels:

capital income level by state


Anyway, more evidence for the concentration of capital ownership! Hooray!