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“Introducing and Using the Distributional Financial Accounts (of the United States)”

With Alice Henriques Volz, Principal Economist at Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System

This paper describes the construction of the Distributional Financial Accounts (DFAs), a new dataset containing quarterly estimates of the distribution of U.S. household wealth since 1989, and provides the first look at the resulting data. The DFAs build on two existing Federal Reserve Board statistical products --- quarterly aggregate measures of household wealth from the Financial Accounts of the United States and triennial wealth distribution measures from the Survey of Consumer Finances --- to incorporate distributional information into a national accounting framework. The DFAs complement other existing sources of data on the wealth distribution by using a more comprehensive measure of household wealth and by providing quarterly data on a timely basis. We encourage policymakers, researchers, and other interested parties to use the DFAs to help understand issues related to the distribution of U.S. household wealth.

There have been many questions about how different U.S. household groups have fared economically through the severe disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic. Using the Distributional Financial Accounts (DFAs), we consider how household wealth evolved over this time. However, the unprecedented events of the pandemic give reason to question the relevance of the historical relationships used for recent quarters in the DFAs, particularly due to the vast amount of fiscal support and reduced consumption that resulted in significant excess savings. We examine a few alternate scenarios for how deposits may be allocated, bounding the household wealth distribution for these recent quarters.

Friday, 6 May 2022, online via Webex.