How much more Unequal? Consistent Estimates of the Distribution of Wealth in the United States between 1774 and 1860

  • Martin Shanahan
  • Margaret Corell


Current estimates of long trends in the distribution of personal wealth in the United States combine a number of different studies. However, the trend estimates are open to challenge because of differences in the methods of estimation between individual studies. In this article, a sample set from the 1860 census is analyzed and the distribution of wealth among different subsets of the population is described. Holding constant the method of estimation, we conclude that the apparent rise in inequality in the United States between 1774 and 1860, as measured using the Gini coefficient, is overstated by 0.1. {Copyright 2000 Elsevier Science Inc. All rights reserved}.