Missing the Wealthy in the HFCS: Micro Problems with Macro Implications

Sofie R. Waltl
Luxembourg Institute of Socio-Economic Research & Vienna University of Economics and Business

Robin Chakraborty
Deutsche Bundesbank


Wealth aggregates implied by the Household Finance and Consumption Survey (HFCS) usually yield much lower amounts than macroeconomic statistics reported in the National Accounts. An important source of this gap may be the under-representation of the wealthiest households in the HFCS. This article therefore combines a semi-parametric Pareto model estimated from top survey data and observations from rich lists with a non-parametric stratification approach to quantify the impact of the missing wealthy households on component-specific micro-macro gaps. We find that unadjusted micro data substantially underestimates wealth inequality. The largest effects are documented for equity. For other components, the missing wealthy explain less than ten percentage points of the micro-macro gap. We find that differences in oversampling strategies limit the cross-country comparability of unadjusted survey-implied wealth distributions and that our top tail adjustment leads to measures that are internationally better comparable.

JEL.: D31, E01

Keywords: Distributional National Accounts (DINA); HFCS; Micro-Macro Linkage; Semi-parametric Pareto Models; Wealth distribution


Waltl, S. R., & Chakraborty, R. (2022). Missing the Wealthy in the HFCS: Micro Problems with Macro Implications, Journal of Economic Inequality 20(1):169-203. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10888-021-09519-1

Working Paper: [ECB Working Paper]

Presentations: [“The legacy of Tony Atkinson in inequality analysis”, LIS, Luxembourg, May 2018] [OeNB, March 2018] [Vienna University of Economics and Business, March 2018] [WID.world conference, Paris School of Economics, December 2017] [ECB HFCN User workshop, Frankfurt, November 2017] [U Graz, September 2017] [Deutsche Bundesbank, Frankfurt, August 2017] [5th Luxembourg Workshop on Household Finance and Consumption, Banque Centrale du Luxembourg, June 2017] [Expert Group on Linking Macro and Micro Statistics for the Household Sector, ECB, Frankfurt, June 2017]

Media: Vermögen: Wem gehört Österreich? (derStandard Ökonomieblog, April 2019)