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

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  • Karagiannaki, Eleni

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Karagiannaki, Eleni, 2011. "Recent trends in the size and the distribution of inherited wealth in the UK," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 43868, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  • Handle: RePEc:ehl:lserod:43868
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    File URL: http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/43868/
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. 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.
    2. Thomas Piketty, 2011. "On the Long-Run Evolution of Inheritance: France 1820--2050," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 126(3), pages 1071-1131.
    3. Laitner, John, 1979. "Household Bequests, Perfect Expectations, and the National Distribution of Wealth," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 47(5), pages 1175-1193, September.
    4. Mariacristina De Nardi, 2004. "Wealth Inequality and Intergenerational Links," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 71(3), pages 743-768.
    5. Gokhale, Jagadeesh & Kotlikoff, Laurence J. & Sefton, James & Weale, Martin, 2001. "Simulating the transmission of wealth inequality via bequests," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 79(1), pages 93-128, January.
    6. James B. Davies, 1982. "The Relative Impact of Inheritance and Other Factors on Economic Inequality," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 97(3), pages 471-498.
    7. 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 810-833, September.
    8. 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 321-326, June.
    9. John Laitner, 1979. "Household Bequest Behaviour and the National Distribution of Wealth," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 46(3), pages 467-483.
    10. 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.
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    Cited by:

    1. 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.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D10 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - General
    • D31 - Microeconomics - - Distribution - - - Personal Income and Wealth Distribution

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