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Intergenerational Transfers and the Accumulation of Wealth

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  • William G. Gale
  • John Karl Scholz

Abstract

This paper uses household data to provide direct estimates of intergenerational transfers as a source of wealth. The authors distinguish between intended transfers (for example, gifts to other households) and possibly unintended transfers (bequests) and estimate that intended transfers account for at least 20 percent of net worth. Thus, a significant portion of the U.S. wealth cannot be explained by the life-cycle model, even when the model is augmented to allow for bequests. Estimated bequests can account for an additional 31 percent of net worth. The authors also show that transfers among living people are about half as large as bequests.

Suggested Citation

  • William G. Gale & John Karl Scholz, 1994. "Intergenerational Transfers and the Accumulation of Wealth," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 8(4), pages 145-160, Fall.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:jecper:v:8:y:1994:i:4:p:145-60
    Note: DOI: 10.1257/jep.8.4.145
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D91 - Microeconomics - - Micro-Based Behavioral Economics - - - Role and Effects of Psychological, Emotional, Social, and Cognitive Factors on Decision Making
    • D31 - Microeconomics - - Distribution - - - Personal Income and Wealth Distribution

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