Affiliations: Statistics of Income Division, Internal Revenue Service, Washington, DC 20224-0002, USA
Corresponding author: Barry W. Johnson, Statistics of Income Division, Internal Revenue Service, 1111 Constitution Avenue, NW, (K-Room 4112), Washington, DC 20224-0002, USA. Tel.: +1 202 803 9794; Fax: +1 202 803 9746; E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Abstract: Federal estate tax data have been used to produce estimates of U.S. personal wealth for almost 100 years. To produce representative estimates, the methodology relies on mortality rates appropriate to relatively wealthy decedents. Because the estate tax population is relatively small, especially for the young, the estimates are especially sensitive to the choice of mortality rate. This paper is one of a continuing series exploring improvements to the methods used by SOI to measure wealth. Here, we assess two new sets of mortality rates – one based on actuarial data and one based on capitalized income tax data – and find that both series yield similar results. This research also enables us to quantify longevity differences between those in the general U.S. population and those in the top 1 percent of the wealth distribution. We find that those in the top 1 percent of the wealth distribution under age 60 have a probability of death that is less than 50 percent of that experienced by the overall U.S. population.