pp 1–30 | Cite as

Top Indian wealth shares and inheritances 1966–1985

  • Rishabh KumarEmail author
Original Paper


Between 1953 and 1985, India implemented various progressive taxes on personal wealth. I use estate tax returns to compute top wealth shares (top 1%, top 0.1%, and top 0.01%) over 1966–1985; a period marked explicitly by a dirigiste policy environment. These new series suggest that wealth concentration in India reduced substantially during the 1970s. Although the decline affected the entire top 1%, the losses faced by the top 0.01% were especially large. Combined with identical trends in top income shares, it appears that the 1950–1980 expropriations of India’s rich had similarities to institutional transitions and shocks faced by European elites in the early to mid twentieth century.


India Inheritance Wealth inequality Top wealth shares Estate multiplier 

JEL Codes

D31 N35 



I am grateful to participants at various seminars where earlier drafts of this research were presented. Special thanks to Dr Suranjali Tandon and anonymous members of the Income Tax Department for their assistance in obtaining the relevant data and for guidelines regarding tax policies. Comments from Vimal Balasubramaniam, Daniel MacDonald, Thomas Piketty, and Sanjay Reddy have contributed tremendously to improving this article. Two anonymous referees provided very useful comments and suggestions which (among other aspects) also broadened the relevance of this article. All errors are solely my own.


Funding was provided by Dean's office at the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences (California State University San Bernardino) (Grant No. Summer research grant).


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© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.California State University San BernardinoSan BernardinoUSA

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