Long term dynamics of wealth concentration

Using historical tax registers as well as more recent (since 1989) rankings of wealthy individuals/families, we analyze the changing and interconnected roles of inheritance, family networks, industrial/financial structures, and entrepreneurship in the dynamics of wealth accumulation and concentration since the 1890s.

This project has a strong exploratory dimension as it aims to both gather data on wealth concentration in a long-term perspective—an endeavor that has never been attempted due to the fragmentation of the Swiss tax system—and develop a quantitative and qualitative assessment of this data for the three main urban areas. As there has been yet very little research on high incomes and wealth in Switzerland using historical methods, we expect to contribute to a better understanding of the changing structure of the higher social echelons of one of the world’s wealthiest industrialized societies.
The data collection in this subproject may also benefit other research within this University Research Priority Program, including the study of alternative taxation schemes in research module 3 on public policy.


Prof. Mathieu Leimgruber, Department of History

Prof. Matthieu Leimgruber
Project Leader
Department of History

Prof. Mathieu Leimgruber, Department of History

Geoffroy Legentilhomme
Department of History

Data used

At the moment, our dataset contains app. 1500 individual observations, ranging from 1890 to 1952, collected in the Canton of Zurich tax registers. This data collection has enabled us to reconstruct the 0.1% richest taxpayers at the individual level. The dataset will be expanded in the following months and is not yet available to other researchers. We aim to integrate part of the dataset in the Swiss Elites database (www2.unil.ch/elitessuisses/index.php) hosted at the University of Lausanne.

Data not yet available.

For further information about the project and data please contact:  geoffroy.legentillhomme@uzh.ch