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How inheritances shape wealth distributions: An international comparison

Author

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  • Bönke, Timm
  • Werder, Marten v.
  • Westermeier, Christian

Abstract

We use data from the European Household Finance and Consumption Survey in order to examine the distributional effect of intergenerational wealth transfers on the net worth distribution in 8 European countries and compare it to recent findings for the US. To do so, we resort to the decomposition of the coefficient of variation as suggested and applied by Wolff (1987, 2002, 2015) and Wolff and Gittleman (2014). The results seem to imply that inheritances and gifts have a vastly equalizing effect on inequality in household wealth in all 8 countries.

Suggested Citation

  • Bönke, Timm & Werder, Marten v. & Westermeier, Christian, 2017. "How inheritances shape wealth distributions: An international comparison," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 159(C), pages 217-220.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:ecolet:v:159:y:2017:i:c:p:217-220
    DOI: 10.1016/j.econlet.2017.08.007
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Piketty, Thomas & Postel-Vinay, Gilles & Rosenthal, Jean-Laurent, 2014. "Inherited vs self-made wealth: Theory & evidence from a rentier society (Paris 1872–1927)," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 51(C), pages 21-40.
    2. Edward Wolff & Maury Gittleman, 2014. "Inheritances and the distribution of wealth or whatever happened to the great inheritance boom?," The Journal of Economic Inequality, Springer;Society for the Study of Economic Inequality, vol. 12(4), pages 439-468, December.
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    4. 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.
    5. Kotlikoff, Laurence J & Summers, Lawrence H, 1981. "The Role of Intergenerational Transfers in Aggregate Capital Accumulation," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 89(4), pages 706-732, August.
    6. Simon H. Boserup & Wojciech Kopczuk & Claus T. Kreiner, 2016. "The Role of Bequests in Shaping Wealth Inequality: Evidence from Danish Wealth Records," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 106(5), pages 656-661, May.
    7. Corneo, Giacomo G. & Bönke, Timm & Westermeier, Christian, 2016. "Erbschaft und Eigenleistung im Vermögen der Deutschen: eine Verteilungsanalyse," EconStor Open Access Articles, ZBW - Leibniz Information Centre for Economics, pages 35-53.
    8. Elinder, Mikael & Erixson, Oscar & Waldenström, Daniel, 2018. "Inheritance and wealth inequality: Evidence from population registers," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 165(C), pages 17-30.
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    10. Edward N. Wolff, 2002. "Inheritances and Wealth Inequality, 1989–1998," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(2), pages 260-264, May.
    11. repec:bla:revinw:v:64:y:2018:i:2:p:357-387 is not listed on IDEAS
    12. Anita Tiefensee & Christian Westermeier, 2016. "Intergenerational Transfers and Wealth in the Euro-Area: The Relevance of Inheritances and Gifts in Absolute and Relative Terms," Discussion Papers of DIW Berlin 1556, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research.
    13. Philip Vermeulen, 2018. "How Fat is the Top Tail of the Wealth Distribution?," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 64(2), pages 357-387, June.
    14. Christopher Carroll & Jiri Slacalek & Kiichi Tokuoka & Matthew N. White, 2017. "The distribution of wealth and the marginal propensity to consume," Quantitative Economics, Econometric Society, vol. 8(3), pages 977-1020, November.
    15. Mathias Moser & Stefan Humer & Matthias Schnetzer, 2016. "Bequests and the accumulation of wealth in the Eurozone," Working Paper Reihe der AK Wien - Materialien zu Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft 149, Kammer für Arbeiter und Angestellte für Wien, Abteilung Wirtschaftswissenschaft und Statistik.
    16. Tiefensee, Anita & Grabka, Markus M., 2016. "Comparing Wealth - Data Quality of the HFCS," EconStor Open Access Articles, ZBW - Leibniz Information Centre for Economics, pages 119-142.
    17. Fessler, Pirmin & Schürz, Martin, 2015. "Private wealth across European countries: the role of income, inheritance and the welfare state," Working Paper Series 1847, European Central Bank.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Elinder, Mikael & Erixson, Oscar & Waldenström, Daniel, 2018. "Inheritance and wealth inequality: Evidence from population registers," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 165(C), pages 17-30.
    2. Sommer, Eric, 2017. "Wealth Transfers and Tax Planning: Evidence for the German Bequest Tax," IZA Discussion Papers 11120, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    3. Stefan Jestl, 2018. "Inheritance tax regimes," Working Paper Reihe der AK Wien - Materialien zu Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft 176, Kammer für Arbeiter und Angestellte für Wien, Abteilung Wirtschaftswissenschaft und Statistik.
    4. von Werder, Marten, 2018. "Intergenerational transfers: How do they shape the German wealth distribution?," Discussion Papers 2018/15, Free University Berlin, School of Business & Economics.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Inheritance; Household wealth; Inequality; Decomposition;

    JEL classification:

    • D31 - Microeconomics - - Distribution - - - Personal Income and Wealth Distribution
    • E21 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Consumption; Saving; Wealth

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