Lee Soltow examines wealth and income in the United States during the Federal period, at a time when state constitutions were formed, national tax laws written, and policies for banking, credit, and debt first formulated. Soltow bases his study on the national census of 1798, which catalogued nearly every piece of property in the United States -land, dwellings, mills, and wharfs-in order to levy the First Direct Tax. He complements this with information from the 1790 and 1800 United States censuses, and with data gathered fifty years before and after this time, to offer an exhaustive survey of the distribution of wealth in early America. He then compares these findings to conditions in Europe during the same period, and discovers that, while wealth in America was not evenly dispersed, it was far more equal than European nations.
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