Wealth Inequality in the US: the Role of Heterogeneous Returns

Best paper award for Inês Xavier (Economics ’15, UPF PhD ’21)

Paper abstract

Why is wealth so concentrated in the United States? In this paper, I investigate the role of return heterogeneity as a source of wealth inequality. Using household-level data from the Survey of Consumer Finances (1989-2019), I provide new empirical evidence on returns to wealth in the United States, and find that wealthier households earn, on average, higher returns: moving from the 20th to the 99th percentile of the wealth distribution raises the average yearly return from 3.6% to 8.3%. To understand how these return differences shape the distribution of wealth, I introduce realistic return heterogeneity in a partial equilibrium model of household saving behavior. This exercise suggests that considering both earnings and return heterogeneity can fully account for the top 10% wealth share observed in the data (76%), which cannot be explained by earnings differences alone.

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Inês Xavier ’15 (PhD, UPF and BSE) is an Economist at the U.S. Federal Reserve Board of Governors. She is an alum of the BSE Master’s in Economics.

The heterogenous effects of environmental taxation on green investment

IND+I Science award for research by Kinga Tchorzewska ’15 (Economics)


I am honoured and overjoyed to have received the IND+I Science award in the category of “Green Industry for Sustainable Growth.” Big thank you to Magdalena Dominguez ’17 and Rodrigo Martinez ’17 for representing me at the award ceremony! So delighted and motivated even more to work hard towards research on public policies and green innovation!

Fellow BGSE alum Magdalena Domínguez ’15 collects the prize on Kinga’s behalf

About the paper

This paper investigates the effectiveness of environmental taxation at stimulating adoption of energy efficient and pollution abating technologies across manufacturing firms.

To that aim, we use the fact that Spain does not have a consolidated environmental taxation policy at the national level, instead there exist significant differences between regions in implementation of the environmental taxes e.g.  air pollution taxes, waste taxes and others. We use categorical treatment matching to study the heterogenous effects of different levels of taxation on adoption of green technologies. We assess the effects between firms forced to pay environmental taxation (treated) and those that did not have to pay such taxes (controls) as well as between different levels of environmental taxation (small, medium, large). We control for time and firm fixed effects thanks to the use of a panel data set of 2,562 Spanish firms between 2008 and 2014.

We find that environmental taxation is ineffective at stimulating green technologies adoption at low levels of environmental taxation. As we increase the level of taxation the effect increases. Additionally, we find that even low levels of environmental taxation can be effective if combined with public financing. In that case the effect is stronger than from providing public financing alone.

The research leading to these results has received funding from RecerCaixa (RecerCaixa project 2016: The climate change challenge: policies for energy transition) and it is supervised by my advisor Prof. José Garcia-Quevedo.

I would also like to add that I will be awarded a SEBAP Research Mobility Grant this month, which is financing my current stay at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, working with Prof. Tatyana Deryugina.


Kinga Tchorzewska ’15 is a visiting scholar at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She is an alum of the Barcelona GSE Master’s in Economics.

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Fake News, Immigration and Opinion Polarisation

A poster by Carlo Borella ’17 (Economics) has won the Festival Prize at the 2019 LSE Research Festival.

A poster created by Carlo Alessandro Borella ’17 has won the Festival Prize at the 2019 LSE Research Festival. This prize was awarded to the shortlisted submission that best engaged with the LSE Festival theme “New World (Dis)Orders” as judged by LSE Director Minouche Shafik.

Carlo’s poster is based on a paper of that same title that he wrote with fellow Barcelona GSE alum, Diego Rossinelli ’17 (Economics). That paper was published in SocioEconomic Challenges a few months after they graduated from the Barcelona GSE Master’s.

Carlos receives the award at the LSE Research Festival

About the paper

Nowadays, it is hard to venture online without coming across a heated discussion over “Fake News”; as a result, people are finding hard times moving through an entirely new distorted era of misinformation. In this paper, we investigate the effect of fake news on people’s opinion polarisation.

Carlo and his winning poster
Carlo and his winning poster. See the full-size poster

About the authors

Carlo Borella is a research assistant and Master’s student at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

Diego Rossinelli is a specialist in social policy evaluation at the Ministry of Development and Social Inclusion of Peru.

Both are graduates of the Barcelona GSE Economics Master’s Program.