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Recent trends in the size and the distribution of inherited wealth in the UK

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  • Eleni Karagiannaki
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    Abstract

    In this paper we document the evolution of the annual flow of inheritances in the UK during the period 1984-2005 and provide estimates for the overall magnitude and the distribution of inherited wealth. Our results indicate that the period under examination the annual flow of inheritance increased markedly, from £22 billion in 1984 to £56 billion in 2005. The main drivers behind this increase were the rise in house prices and to a lesser extent the increase in the proportion of inheritances which included housing assets. Our results, based on analysis of survey data, show that the distribution of inheritances is characterized by a very high degree of inequality (comparable by and large to that observed in personal wealth) and that this has increased over time. However, the inequality increasing effect from the greater inequality in the distribution of inheritance was counterbalanced by the increase in the percentage of the population who received an inheritance. Our results also show that inheritance is positively associated with socio-economic status and that the disparities between groups became slightly more pronounced over time (mainly across educational groups). However, our evidence also shows that inheritance for the majority of recipients is fairly small and that large inheritances are limited to a very small minority of the population.

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    File URL: http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/43868/
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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library in its series LSE Research Online Documents on Economics with number 43868.

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    Length: 31 pages
    Date of creation: Jun 2011
    Date of revision:
    Handle: RePEc:ehl:lserod:43868

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    1. Davies, James B, 1982. "The Relative Impact of Inheritance and Other Factors on Economic Inequality," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 97(3), pages 471-98, August.
    2. Mariacristina Nardi, 2004. "Wealth Inequality and Intergenerational Links," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 71, pages 743-768, 07.
    3. Jagadeesh Gokhale & Laurence J. Kotlikoff & James Sefton & Martin Weale, 1999. "Simulating the Transmission of Wealth Inequity via Bequests," NBER Working Papers 7183, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Harbury, C D & McMahon, P C, 1973. "Inheritance and the Characteristics of Top Wealth Leavers in Britain," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 83(331), pages 810-33, September.
    5. Piketty, Thomas, 2010. "On the Long Run Evolution of Inheritance - France 1820-2050," CEPR Discussion Papers 7854, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    6. Laitner, John, 1979. "Household Bequests, Perfect Expectations, and the National Distribution of Wealth," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 47(5), pages 1175-93, September.
    7. Modigliani, Franco, 1988. "The Role of Intergenerational Transfers and Life Cycle Saving in the Accumulation of Wealth," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 2(2), pages 15-40, Spring.
    8. Laitner, John, 1979. "Household Bequest Behaviour and the National Distribution of Wealth," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 46(3), pages 467-83, July.
    9. N. Anders Klevmarken, 2004. "On The Wealth Dynamics Of Swedish Families, 1984-98," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 50(4), pages 469-491, December.
    10. Harbury, C D & Hitchens, D M W N, 1976. "The Inheritances of Top Wealth Leavers: Some Further Evidence," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 86(342), pages 321-26, June.
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