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


This article assesses the reliability of wealth surveys to compile Distributional National Accounts, which link micro data to the National Accounts. Aggregates implied by the Household Finance and Consumption Survey (HFCS) usually yield much lower amounts than macroeconomic statistics. An important source of this gap may be the lack of the wealthiest households in the HFCS. This article combines a semi-parametric Pareto model estimated from top survey data and observations from rich lists with a 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. Largest effects are found for equity. For other components, the missing wealthy explain less than ten percentage points of the micro-macro gap. We document that differences in oversampling strategies limits the cross-country comparability of unadjusted survey-implied wealth distributions and that our top tail adjustment leads to internationally more comparable measures.

JEL.: D31, E01

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


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)