La nouvelle prospérité des rentiers : la dynamique des inégalités dans un monde en croissance faible*
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Inheritance makes wealth again
Toward a new century of rentiers in France?
Distribution of national income between wages and…

Will twenty-first century capitalism be as unequal and unstable as nineteenth-century capitalism? Even as predictions proclaimed that human capital would triumph, assets held by a minority continued to increase their share of national wealth and income. The twenty-first century must invent a more peaceful and sustainable way, surpassing twentieth-century capitalism, stained as it was by two world wars.

Principally, there are two ways to get rich - by one's own labour or by inheritance. In the traditional hierarchical "three estate" societies of many European countries, and subsequently during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, there was no doubt that inheritance provided the best means of access to capital

This article is the translation of the written transcription, validated by the author, of an oral presentation given during an interview organized by Iddri and AFD on 20 September 2012.


Classic literature, such as the works of Jane Austen, Henry James and Honoré de Balzac, provides plenty of references to the importance of inheritance during these periods. For example, Balzac's 1835 novel Le Père Goriot features the famous speech of the villainous manipulator Vautrin to Eugène de Rastignac, an ambitious young man keen on social advancement, in which the former provides the latter with two very different scenarios for his future life that hinge on whether he is willing to marry for money. In essence, he informs Rastignac that if he works hard and becomes a brilliant student of law or medicine, then this will lead to a certain profession which, through continued hard work, would enable him to enjoy an above average income and lifestyle. Alternatively, if he successfully managed to wed a particular heiress, then he could be assured of an entirely different future: he would inherit a great fortune and could enjoy a life of luxury, all without the effort of study and work. The distasteful conclusion of Vautrin's speech is that studies are useless and could never provide Rastignac with a standard of living consistent with his aspirations.

Of course, although fictitious, the novel was set in a world that was far from imaginary. Balzac's words, expressed through Vautrin, are an accurate reflection of the structure of inequality at that time. It was simply impossible, through individual merit or hard work, to ever hope to achieve the same elevated standard of living as that enjoyed by those whom inherited wealth.

It might be assumed that today's societies are no longer dogged by this overriding influence of heritage and legacy on income determination and standards of living. Surely the process of development has implicitly resulted in a reduction of the benefits associated with inherited wealth, instead promoting the values of individual initiative, work and merit? Can we be certain that this has been a natural and irreversible consequence of change? Are societies of rentiers and heirs finally obsolete? The answer is "no". The historical and theoretical work of the author has revealed that in many cases inheritance plays a role in twenty-first century capitalism that is just as important as the one it played during the era of Rastignac and Vautrin. The underlying mechanism is low population and economic growth - a characteristic of nineteenth century France and also perhaps of much of the world in the twenty-first century - which automatically gives disproportionate power to inherited wealth. When capital returns exceed the rate of economic growth for a sustained period, the past tends to devour the future, and the meritocratic values on which our democratic societies are based become deeply challenged.

An imperfect measure of income inequality and inheritance

It goes almost without saying that insights from historical literature are insufficient for addressing such an important issue, and that statistical data is essential. The first step towards fulfilling this requirement is the creation of databases, these databases should then be used to provide empirical evidence of long-term changes in income. Such an approach is preferable to the simple construction of new theories or the contradiction of existing ones.

With this in mind, the author and a team of researchers constructed a historical database - the World Top Income Database - which identifies the percentile distributions of national income for France, the United States, the United Kingdom and other countries, over a long period of time. The database now covers more than 30 countries. To add a country to the database, information on its income inequalities must be collated for the longest possible period: the earliest starting point is typically the date at which income tax was established in that particular country, which is usually in the twentieth century. When I started this research around 15 years ago, historical data were only available for the United States, and only then back until 1950, which included the work of Kuznets (1955). It has taken many years to construct the current database, which enables comparisons of inequality over time and between countries.

Indeed, one of the limitations on the measurement of income through tax declarations is that it is difficult to analyse the importance of inheritance in the structure of inequalities. Firstly, there is an increasing trend for significant amounts of inheritance to escape taxation in France; secondly, even when income from assets is present in income tax documentation, it does not give specific details - in particular, it does not reveal where assets are from. If tax returns are the only basis of analysis, it is impossible to distinguish between inherited wealth and money that was earned by an individual, which is nevertheless a crucial question about the nature and justification of inequality.

Following the establishment of the World Top Income Database, the next task will be to fill the gap: to trace the sources of unearned income and to move from our world database on income inequality to a world database on inequalities in inherited wealth. These two databases should then be joined as completely as possible. The author's work on income inequality began with the building up of data for France. Then, through working in conjunction with a series of co-authors, research began on unearned income in the United Kingdom, the United States, Germany and others. The overall goal has remained constant: to study the historical dynamics of the distribution of wealth in the broadest sense over the longest period possible.

Measuring the wealth of a country, to take stock of inherited wealth, is obviously not a new idea. It was an obsession of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries until being sidelined in the middle of the twentieth century with the development of modern national accounts. It is worth remembering that, for example, during the 1930s no government would have been able to state that: "production has decreased by 10% compared to 1932". It would have been simply impossible, as the necessary information did not exist. Clearly, this was not a very practical means of driving the economy or finding solutions to economic problems and as such provided a powerful incentive for the development of post-war national accounts. The earliest efforts in this field were based on the work of researchers - such as Kuznets in the United States, Clarke and Richard Stone in England and Dugé de Bernonville in France. Their work focused on the short-term variations in economic activity, much more than on the stock of wealth of a country. Indeed, inheritance was largely forgotten during this part of the twentieth century, firstly because of the obsession for the analysis of short-term fluctuations, recessions and crises, but also because of the strong state intervention in economic life at that time, which disrupted the structures of private property, capital and inheritance that existed at the beginning of that century. At the start of the 1950s, for example, properties were worth almost nothing. Indeed, there was a freezing of rent which led people, as Fourastié described, to spend less on their rent than they did on tobacco. In France in 1950, properties were worth nothing, so it made no sense to attempt to calculate their value. The stock exchange no longer existed, or only barely. Many activities had been nationalized. The traditional private capitalism of inheritance had been devastated by wars and then by policy responses to the economic crisis of the 1930s. For all these reasons, the measurement of inheritance was stopped. At the time, its reproduction and transmission seemed to be long forgotten issues.

Thirty years later and everything had changed. During the 1980s and 1990s, waves of financial deregulation and privatization brought a new phase of capitalism where inheritance became much more significant, and it was then realized that the statistical apparatus was lagging behind reality. A parallel can be drawn between the present situation and the 1930s: at that time, not knowing the level of economic production was a problem; similarly in more recent times, the inability to accurately measure capital stocks and their distribution in the world posed a serious problem during the global financial crisis of 2007-2008. The disadvantages of tax declarations and national accounts in terms of the determination of sources of inherited income, as briefly mentioned above, also apply at the international level. The sum of all the outputs and inputs of capital from all over the world - in other words, the sum of the balance of payments at the global level - should always be zero, unless a certain amount escapes to Mars! And yet the balance is always negative. That is to say, the dividends of outgoing interest are higher than the dividends of incoming interest. There is an obvious culprit here. The problem lies in the lack of reporting obligations for financial institutions in tax havens. Such institutions have absolutely no involvement in this statistical exercise. One of the virtues of a series of analyses such as this is that it reveals inconsistencies in the existing statistical system. In this case, the overall analysis of stocks raises major statistical inconsistencies, partly because for a long time, interest has focused on the annual flows of inheritance and less on the detail of stocks, which raises more interest today. When the instrument of observation is so imperfect, it is sometimes better to read the work of novelists rather than statisticians to find out what is happening today.

Inheritance thrives on low growth - or why growth reshuffles the cards

In the French case, by combining different sources of statistical information - especially data from the national accounts of income and wealth and data on inheritance tax

For more details, see Piketty T. (2011), "On The Long-Run Evolution of Inheritance: France 1820-2050", Quarterly Journal of Economics vol. CXXVI, Issue 3: 1071-1131.

- I managed to reconstruct the annual value of inherited wealth in the national income from 1820 to the present day. How much does inheritance "weigh" in the national income, year after year? The first finding is that flows of inherited wealth follow a pronounced U-shaped curve over time. The annual value of inheritance flows amounted to 20-25% of national income around 1900-1910. It fell gradually to less than 10% during the inter-war period, and to less than 5% in 1950 (Figure 1). There has been a steady rise since then, with a marked acceleration in the last thirty years. We are now at a level close to 15%. In a longer perspective, the collapse of inheritance flow in the national income in the mid-twentieth century is even more spectacular. Inheritance flows during the period between 1820-1910 were stable in the region of 20-25% of national income, then from 1910 to the 1950s this figure plummeted by a factor of 5 to 6, before rising by a factor of 3 to 4 between the 1950s and the 2000s. These results are robust and confirmed by the two convergent estimates of the annual inheritance flow - the first on the basis of economic data (assets), the second based on tax data (successions)

Cf note 1, in particular pp. 1084-1099.

. Note that the current level of 15% would be even higher if instead of the national income, we used the disposable income - that is to say, the national income adjusted for taxes and public transfers. Disposable income accounted for between 90% and 95% of national income in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, while this proportion is around 70% today - the share of taxes and transfers being simply more important. The 15% level of inheritance flow in the national income is equivalent to roughly 20% of disposable income. This is a very significant amount. It is more than the combined total of new savings made each year and roughly equal to the annual capital income of the French economy.

In which ways can these facts be interpreted? In particular, how can we account for the distinct U-shaped curve and what seems to be a return to a long-term equilibrium at the very high level of 20%? In the view of the author, there is a very simple, and also very convincing, explanation. The key lies in the comparative value of the economic growth rate and the rate of return on property. When the economic growth rate is low, lower than the rate of return on property, for example when annual growth is 1-2% and the rate of return on property is 4-5% per year, which has been the situation in France during the last two centuries - with the exception of the period of the Les Trente Glorieuses ("The Glorious Thirty" - the thirty years from 1945 to 1975) - then inheritance is the determining factor of wealth accumulation and the structuring of inequalities. Conversely, when the return on property is lower than the economic growth rate, then the accumulation of wealth is less influenced by inheritance compared to the year on year production of new wealth. This can be summed up in two very complementary ways. Inheritance thrives during weak growth. Or growth constantly reshuffles the cards, thus minimizing the weight of inherited wealth.

The easiest way to understand this result is to illustrate it by looking at the demographics. Imagine a society with high population growth, with five or ten children per household: this is a society where inheritance disappears. Everything must be divided by five or ten in each generation. So everyone must accumulate their own wealth. Population growth of the twentieth century, according to all available forecasts, is absolutely unique in human history. Until the eighteenth century, population growth was almost zero; it rose a little in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries to reach 0.3% to 0.4% per year, which is already a huge change. In the twentieth century, the worldwide growth of the population stood at an average of 1.5% per year. In the twenty-first century, this rate may fall to 0.5%. This has great implications in terms of the transmission of inequality. Demographics feed growth, which as we have seen reduces the share of inherited wealth. A world of high population growth is one where the inheritance is continuously divided. Conversely, in a world that is demographically stagnant, or worse, has a shrinking population, then inheritance becomes a crucial part of the distribution of income and multiplies the inequalities related to property transmission.

The same applies to economic growth. When output growth per capita is 5% or 10% per year, then this produces a similar effect to a situation where the populace has between five or ten children each. What has been accumulated 10, 20 or 30 years ago is not important. Conversely, when economic growth is small or zero, property inherited from the past accumulates with a rate of return higher than the growth rate. This causes extreme inequality. In the contemporary situation, where the growth rate is less than 1% per annum, with a higher rate of return on property - it doesn't have to be double-digits, just 3%, 4% or 5% is sufficient - then the cumulative effects on wealth give an absolutely staggering importance to the past. When presented with these results, a common reaction is: "But this is not possible forever. It cannot always be the case. There is a logical inconsistency." But in fact, it is perfectly possible. Human history is an illustration of this relentless mechanism of accumulation by successive transmissions. Roughly speaking, with the exception of the twentieth century, the growth rate has been less than 1% per year, with a much higher rate of return on property, i.e. the rate of the rent. Even small values like 3% or 4%, compared to a 1% growth, produce decade after decade of immense cumulative effects. It is here we find one of the evils of capitalism.

Admittedly, and thankfully, there are many kinds of public policies and institutions in place to reduce the accumulation of inherited wealth. Moreover, nominal growth rates (including inflation) are of the order of 5-6% per year, so that inert heritage, inherited from the past, weighs little against the new wealth generated each year. We are not yet back to the situation in the nineteenth century, which was also a world without inflation, where growth was in the region of 1% to 1.5% per year, and where the rate of return on inert capital was very much higher than growth. We are not there yet because there are reserves of population growth and economic growth. But we have seen that when population growth falters, with it falls the direct reduction of inequality by transmission, in addition to those inequalities induced by growth, which should automatically falter too. Conditions are met - from a strictly logical point of view when comparing the evolution of the rates of growth and return - so that at one point, during the twenty-first century, we should expect to return to a very low level of growth, that is much lower than the rate of return on capital, recreating a world of great inequality (Figure 2).

New rentiers

In the nineteenth century, the United Kingdom and France owned a large part of the capital of the rest of the world, and partly lived on pure rents. From 1850 to 1914, the United Kingdom and, to a lesser extent, France, were in permanent trade deficits to other countries throughout the world. However, these two countries benefited from a balance of payments surplus, that is to say that the rents paid by the rest of the world allowed these two countries not only to finance their trade deficit, but also to continue to accumulate at the expense of other countries. This is the power of capital: when you become an owner, you no longer need to work. Nineteenth century trade balances demonstrate this fact: some countries were rentiers compared to others. Although this doesn't mean that the rentiers stopped producing, in fact they continued to produce, but less than they were consuming. On the eve of 1914, English and French national incomes were 10% higher than domestic production, and the gap was financed by the rent paid by the rest of the world. Politically, such a situation is highly confrontational and violent. Is this a world that we wish to return to? The great fear in Europe today is that such a situation could indeed occur again, but with reversed roles where Europe becomes the possessed, rather than the possessor.

The resurgence of inheritance in a situation of low growth may ultimately lead to the absurd situation, which in the opinion of the author is socially and politically untenable, where millions of households pay rents to globalized, anonymous billionaires. Such a scenario reignites certain nineteenth century fears. Ricardo once said: "At the end of the nineteenth century, the rent will have absorbed all the national income" (Ricardo, 1817). While this prediction was not quite accurate, if we replace ground rent by property prices in capital cities or the price of oil, the same kind of predictions wouldn't seem outlandish today.

Something radically new has emerged in the structure of inequality that has developed particularly in the United States, which is the appearance of a kind of superstar entrepreneur, the working rich millionaires that claim their wealth is the result of hard work and not capital. There are no equivalent figures in history and their existence is a sign of complete institutional failure. It is simply absurd that people at the head of large US companies should be allowed to set their own salaries. What else can we expect in this situation? These people are simply helping themselves to company coffers. Since there are no limits to restrain them, they consequently build themselves a substantial heritage. The problem is not only greed, but also the inability of the market economy to properly control the remuneration of executives of very large companies. The invisible hand of the market cannot touch these people.

It is possible to calculate the marginal productivity for replicable functions, such as for staff in a McDonald's restaurant or an assembly line worker, i.e. the additional productivity an individual in such a role brings to the business. But such a calculation is not possible for non-replicable functions, such as for a chief financial officer. Nobody has conducted a test to see how much a business would lose without having a chief executive officer for ten years. Over such a period, even with all the controls that can be imagined, the economic environment will have changed so much that the results would be inconclusive. This is a typical example of something that the market cannot do, which highlights the need for institutions that can.

This phenomenon of very high salaries, which transform into rent, is also symptomatic of a type of meritocratic extremism that has developed in the United States. The common justification for the exponential increase in some salaries is to say: "they allow new people, self-made people, to compete with very wealthy heirs." Essentially, we have set up a race between Forbes-listed individuals who inherit fortunes and those who earn several million dollars at Goldman Sachs. The problem here is that 90% of the population are excluded from the race - the vast majority do not enjoy any inheritance or receive very high salaries for their work, and in addition they are told that this situation is fair. In many ways this represents the worst of all worlds: here we have both the inequality of the past, but accompanied by the moralizing meritocratic discourse of the twenty-first century.

The first priority is to dispel the myths concerning Les Trente Glorieuses in France. The particular structure of inequality during this period was marked by low wage differentials, a very small role for inheritance as a proportion of the national income and property values that had fallen to zero in some cases, together with strong economic growth. This type of structure is now long gone.

Staying with the example of France, which is the country that has experienced the strongest break-ups during the twentieth century that can be divided into two periods between 1950 and 2010. These 30-year (i.e. one generation) periods between 1950-1980 and 1980-2010 were times of revolutionary change. The growth rates of wages, incomes and production stood at about 5% per year during the first period, compared to 1.5% in the second. Rises of 1.5% or 5% in wages, income, per capita output over a generation, were remarkable and represented a complete overhaul. The problem is precisely the length of these periods. The first period lasted so long that people eventually believed it was permanent, and having taken this experience on-board, the second period was assumed to be transitional... except that we are still in the second period, that has now lasted as long as the first one. Some even believe that we have moved into another historical phase - a perpetual Trente Glorieuses perhaps? However, we are likely to pay dearly for such an assumption.

We have yet to emerge from this transitional phase and some expect a return to a "golden age" if we just wait a little longer. This hope is based on the impression that such a world, although not without inequality, had inequalities that were much less pronounced. That is to say that inequalities existed between the blue-collar worker and the executive, with wage differentials from 1 to 3 or 1 to 5, but that these differences were not extreme and were mainly justifiable in light of the work that each brought to the production and the common good. Each had a common vision of the value of work. It was a period when arbitrary inequality, such as arbitrary rent, i.e. money without any possible justification that was there for some and not others, seemed to have disappeared. Many delusions exist about this period, there is the idea for example that technological and technocratic rationality had enabled the competent executive to replace the idle shareholder.

We now realize that the share of national income that goes to human capital and labour in the broad sense may be a little higher today than in Balzac's era, but not much more. That is to say, that the share that goes to pure capital - rent, interest, dividends, which are paid by the mere fact of ownership of capital without the addition of individual work - has declined little compared to the nineteenth century. Then this proportion stood at roughly 35-40%; today it is around 25-30%. This is not an indication of a revolutionary change in civilization (Figure 3). It was during the 1950-1970 period, that the share of capital in national income fell to significantly lower levels due to rent controlling mechanisms such as nationalization and the implementation of strong policies, which had the result of breaking up capital and inheritance so that it was mostly new savings that supplied the capital, meaning that the return on capital was more fairly distributed.

Many French people who have lived through Les Trente Glorieuses still regard themselves as self-made entrepreneurs, as people who have not inherited much wealth but have accumulated a lot through their own hard work. All this continues to weigh on the collective imagination. These people thought that after the war, the world had entered into a new era, an enchanted world where the inequalities of the past had permanently disappeared. Things seem very different to those born between 1970 and 1980. To take a specific example, people born between the years 1970 and 1980 are not able to buy property in Paris or in any big city, unless they inherit a considerable sum or their incomes are within the top 1%. Without inheriting sufficient wealth, even those with salaries in the top 10%, have little choice but to pay rent throughout their lives to the children of owners. This reality simply did not exist for people born between 1930 and 1950. There has been a complete changeover, the cause of which is associated with low growth.

Reshuffling the cards without strong growth

While low growth feeds the importance of inheritance, the obsession for strong growth is equally barren: by focusing overly on the creation of growth, other issues are forgotten - including issues that we actually know how to address. The creation of better institutions, particularly fiscal ones, can help solve the problems associated with growth. Taxes on capital must be developed in the same way that income taxes were developed in the twentieth century. Such taxes on capital must be international, or perhaps European-wide in the first instance. Europe makes a good starting point as it is the world's richest economic area, with the largest number of multinational companies in the global Top 500 list, and the largest number of billionaires. Everything is in place for a taxable base, the tax just needs to be implemented. All this could be achieved at a specific growth rate and could solve many of today's economic problems. We could improve public health and education systems, and much more besides, if we broadened the focus away from the narrow goal of obtaining a 0.1 percentage point of growth, and if we finally accepted the idea that the average growth rates observed for thirty years are already very high. Annual growth of 1-1.5% in an economy that is already highly developed is actually very fast. Perhaps the best way forward is to stop considering the rate of growth on an annual basis, but rather view it in terms of generations. So a 1% annual growth rate is actually a 30% increase over a generation (30 years); while 1.5% equates to 45%, i.e. in just 30 years almost half of the economy has been renewed. In these terms, the growth rate is huge! If we consider only the annual growth rate, then it is possible to think that nothing has happened for the last 30 years in rich countries, because during this time growth has hovered around 1.5% per capita. Whereas, in reality half of the economy has been renewed. While such growth is not sufficient to wipe away the advantage of inheritance, the development of tax tools is much more reasonable than relying solely on the automatic resorption of inheritance by virtue of a very high rate of growth.

Today, wages constitute a significant proportion of the rent. To address this issue, rigid rules on the highest salaries are necessary. Confiscatory tax rates are needed to prevent salaries reaching beyond a certain level. This is the only way to calm the market frenzy. Otherwise, without self-regulation of the market, all other efforts to address this issue are doomed to fail. As discussed above, we can work out the value of people who work at a McDonald's restaurant, but how do we value the executives at the company's headquarters? The latter may have great ideas on how to improve McDonald's menus across the world. But we have no idea how to value this contribution. Similarly, it is very difficult to gauge the value of academic or scientific researchers. Their marginal productivity is not written on their foreheads. In the absence of a suitable means to value their work, the market needs rigid rules so that certain limits cannot be exceeded. Otherwise we know what happens: a company calls in consultants to determine salaries, they check the average in the sector and add 1% so that everyone's happy. The next CEO does the same thing. And 10 years later, wages have soared.

During the time of the US President Roosevelt there were many successful experiments with near-confiscatory income taxes. In fact, there is little cause to seek for new ways to address the problem of excessive salaries. The paradox is that, although France is developing a 75% tax rate, it is not the country where it is most needed. A taxation of 75% would be much more useful in the United States, but here we encounter a political problem: it seems that once individuals in the US reach these high-income levels, they are able to influence the political process and thus can prevent any reform. In France, where such individuals are much less numerous, those with excessively high incomes have much less ability to influence government.

It is the French wealth tax that can today be considered as the closest example of an ideal tax on capital. It has many merits. Created by left-wing politicians in 1981 and then reformed in 1988-1989, it represents a much more modern tax than, for example, the property taxes that were abolished in Germany, Spain and Sweden. These other taxes actually dated from the nineteenth century and much resembled the French property tax, which also dates from that period, and is based on completely obsolete cadastral values. At least the French wealth tax is based, as it should be if we want a global tax on billionaires, on the market value of property.

Consider the Forbes ranking of the world's wealthiest people. Every year these men and women become 7% to 8% richer. So, if global GDP increases by about 5% per year, we may think that their wealth grows at a rate that is only marginally above that of GDP. However, most people who work in rich countries have a salary that rises by just 1%, or even 0% per annum. This may seem like a small difference, but over 30 years, the effect of accumulated wealth is enormous. There are very strong scale effects at work: from 100,000 euros worth of assets, the returns are modest; with one million euros, the returns are much better; while 100 million euros will yield far higher returns. The effect of this from 1990 to 2010 is quite simple: the wealth of those listed in the Forbes rich list has multiplied almost by a factor of ten. This is true for both Bill Gates and Liliane Bettencourt­- i.e. those who have worked to earn their fortune, and those who have not. Gone is the idea that capital income disappears with time because the world is becoming more rational. In fact, exactly the opposite is true: an efficient market fosters the continuation of the transmission of inherited wealth from one generation to the next.

Perhaps one day soon we will realize the folly of making free trade agreements with most countries of the world, without directly including agreements on the transmission of all information on capital flows and flows of interest and dividends. For example, it is senseless to implement free trade on goods and services with Switzerland and not to have in counterpart a total transmission of information on who are the beneficiaries of the flows of interest and dividends into Swiss bank accounts. Allowing this to persist is merely giving our adversaries a stick to beat us with, and ensures that the full potential of our tax base is eaten away.

Inheritance makes wealth again

Inheritance flows peaked in the late nineteenth century, during which period the returns on capital could be up to five times the growth rate. After a fall following the two world wars and then a low-level stabilization during the "trente glorieuses", these flows have been on the rise since 1980, again due to the impact of the remuneration of capital being at a higher rate than that of growth.
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Toward a new century of rentiers in France?

The study of saving habits from 1820 to 2008 allows us to construct scenarios of rent building for the twenty-first century. According to the evolution of economic growth and the return on capital after tax, the share of capital in national income should either be stabilized at around 15% to 20%, or exceed 20%.
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Distribution of national income between wages and profits

The respective share of labour and capital in the French national income has been relatively stable over the past two centuries. Since 1820, capital has thus been generating 30% of the national wealth on average. During certain periods, such as the late nineteenth century, this share reached 40%. It fell below 20% in 1940 and has been fairly stable (24%) since the late 1980s, above its level of the 1970s, the end of the "Trente Glorieuses".
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