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The Importance of Gifts and Inheritances Among the Affluent

In: The Measurement of Saving, Investment, and Wealth

  • Michael D. Hurd
  • B. Gabriela Mundaca

Using data from the 1964 Survey of the Economic Behavior of the Affluent, we estimate directly the fraction of household assets which come from inheritances and the fraction from gifts. These data are well suited for this calculation because the survey is heavily weighted toward households with high incomes, and because the respondents were directly asked about the sources of their wealth. We estimate that 15-202 of household wealth came from inheritances and 5-102 from gifts. Even in households with very high incomes, very few people say that a large fraction of their assets were inherited or were given to them. According to the responses in this survey, it is not creditable that as much as 50% of household assets came from gifts and inheritances. Using data from the 1983 Survey of Consumer Finances with high income supplement, we roughly confirm the 1964 results, although the 1983 data are much less complete than the 1964 data.

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This chapter was published in:
  • Robert E. Lipsey & Helen Stone Tice, 1989. "The Measurement of Saving, Investment, and Wealth," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number lips89-1, October.
  • This item is provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Chapters with number 8130.
    Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberch:8130
    Contact details of provider: Postal: National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Avenue Cambridge, MA 02138, U.S.A.
    Phone: 617-868-3900
    Web page: http://www.nber.org
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    1. Michael R. Darby, 1977. "The Effects of Social Security on Income and the Capital Stock," UCLA Economics Working Papers 095A, UCLA Department of Economics.
    2. Laurence J. Kotlikoff & Lawrence H. Summers, 1980. "The Role of Intergenerational Transfers in Aggregate Capital Accumulation," NBER Working Papers 0445, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. White, Betsy Buttrill, 1978. "Empirical Tests of the Life Cycle Hypothesis," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 68(4), pages 547-60, September.
    4. Kurz, Mordecai, 1984. "Capital Accumulation and the Characteristics of Private Inter-Generational Transfers," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 51(201), pages 1-22, February.
    5. Mirer, Thad W, 1979. "The Wealth-Age Relation among the Aged," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 69(3), pages 435-43, June.
    6. Modigliani, Franco, 1985. "Life Cycle, Individual Thrift and the Wealth of Nations," Nobel Prize in Economics documents 1985-1, Nobel Prize Committee.
    7. Menchik, Paul L & David, Martin, 1983. "Income Distribution, Lifetime Savings, and Bequests," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 73(4), pages 672-90, September.
    8. White, Betsy Buttrill, 1984. "Empirical Tests of the Life Cycle Hypothesis: Reply," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 74(1), pages 258-59, March.
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