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Poor Little Rich Kids? The Determinants of the Intergenerational Transmission of Wealth

Author

Listed:
  • Black, Sandra E.

    () (Department of Economics, University of Texas, Austin)

  • Devereux, Paul J.

    () (School of Economics and Geary Institute, University College Dublin)

  • Lundborg, Petter

    () (Department of Economics, Lund University)

  • Majlesi, Kaveh

    () (Department of Economics, Lund University)

Abstract

Wealth is highly correlated between parents and their children; however, little is known about the extent to which these relationships are genetic or determined by environmental factors. We use administrative data on the net wealth of a large sample of Swedish adoptees merged with similar information for their biological and adoptive parents. Comparing the relationship between the wealth of adopted and biological parents and that of the adopted child, we find that, even prior to any inheritance, there is a substantial role for environment and a much smaller role for pre-birth factors. We also examine the role played by bequests and find that, when they are taken into account, the role of adoptive parental wealth becomes much stronger. We find very little evidence that education or earnings of parents or children are important drivers of the intergenerational wealth relationship between children and their adoptive parents. Our findings suggest that wealth transmission is not primarily because children from wealthier families are inherently more talented or more able but that, even in relatively egalitarian Sweden, wealth begets wealth.

Suggested Citation

  • Black, Sandra E. & Devereux, Paul J. & Lundborg, Petter & Majlesi, Kaveh, 2015. "Poor Little Rich Kids? The Determinants of the Intergenerational Transmission of Wealth," Working Papers 2015:21, Lund University, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:hhs:lunewp:2015_021
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    1. repec:eee:jeborg:v:142:y:2017:i:c:p:404-424 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Lindahl, Mikael & Björkegren, Evelina & Palme, Mårten & Simeonova, Emilia, 2016. "Parental Influences on Health and Longevity: Lessons from a Large Sample of Adoptees," IZA Discussion Papers 9688, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    3. Simon Halphen Boserup & Wojciech Kopczuk & Claus Thustrup Kreiner, 2018. "Born with a Silver Spoon? Danish Evidence on Wealth Inequality in Childhood," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 128(612), pages 514-544, July.
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    11. M. Shahe Emran & William Greene & Forhad Shilpi, 2018. "When Measure Matters: Coresidency, Truncation Bias, and Intergenerational Mobility in Developing Countries," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 53(3), pages 589-607.
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    16. 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.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    intergenerational mobility; nature versus nurture; portfolio allocation;

    JEL classification:

    • G11 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - Portfolio Choice; Investment Decisions
    • J01 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - General - - - Labor Economics: General
    • J13 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Fertility; Family Planning; Child Care; Children; Youth
    • J62 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Job, Occupational and Intergenerational Mobility; Promotion

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