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Wealth distribution within couples and financial decision making


  • GRABKA Markus
  • MARCUS Jan


While most studies on wealth inequality focus on the inequality between households, this paper examines the distribution of wealth within couples. For this purpose, we make use of unique individual level micro data from the German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP).In married and cohabiting couples, men have, on average, 33,000 Euro more net worth than women. We look at five different sets of factors (demographics, income, labor market, inheritances, financial decision making in the partnership) that might explain this wealth gap. We find that all factors contribute to the explanation of the wealth gap within partnerships, with inheritances and income being particularly relevant. Furthermore, we find that specific characteristics (e.g. self-employment, no migration background, inheritances, high income) that decrease the wealth gap for women increase it for men. For men the respective coefficients are even stronger in absolute terms. When examining intra-partnership financial decision making, we find the gap to be significantly smaller when the female manages the money and larger if the male partner has the last word in financial decisions.

Suggested Citation

  • GRABKA Markus & MARCUS Jan & SIERMINSKA Eva, 2013. "Wealth distribution within couples and financial decision making," LISER Working Paper Series 2013-02, LISER.
  • Handle: RePEc:irs:cepswp:2013-02

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    Cited by:

    1. ROSSI Cristina & SIERMINSKA Eva, 2015. "Single again? Saving patterns when widowhood occurs," LISER Working Paper Series 2015-04, LISER.
    2. Hayley Fisher & Hamish Low, 2015. "Financial implications of relationship breakdown: Does marriage matter?," Review of Economics of the Household, Springer, vol. 13(4), pages 735-769, December.
    3. Anglade, Boaz & Useche, Pilar & Deere, Carmen Diana, 2017. "Decomposing the Gender Wealth Gap in Ecuador," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 96(C), pages 19-31.
    4. Alyssa Schneebaum & Miriam Rehm & Katharina Mader & Patricia Klopf & Katarina Hollan, 2014. "The Gender Wealth Gap in Europe," Department of Economics Working Papers wuwp186, Vienna University of Economics and Business, Department of Economics.
    5. Mariacristina Rossi & Eva Sierminska, 2014. "Single again? Asset and portfolio changes due to widowhood shock," CeRP Working Papers 146, Center for Research on Pensions and Welfare Policies, Turin (Italy).
    6. Grabka, Markus M. & Marcus, Jan & Sierminska, Eva, 2015. "Wealth Distribution within Couples," EconStor Open Access Articles, ZBW - German National Library of Economics, pages 459-486.
    7. Namizata Binaté Fofana & Gerrit Antonides & Anke Niehof & Johan Ophem, 2015. "How microfinance empowers women in Côte d’Ivoire," Review of Economics of the Household, Springer, vol. 13(4), pages 1023-1041, December.
    8. Julia Groiß & Alsyssa Schneebaum & Barbara Schuster, 2017. "Vermögensunterschiede nach Geschlecht in Österreich und Deutschland: Eine Analyse auf der Personenebene," Working Paper Reihe der AK Wien - Materialien zu Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft 168, Kammer für Arbeiter und Angestellte für Wien, Abteilung Wirtschaftswissenschaft und Statistik.

    More about this item


    Wealth gap; financial-decision making; wealth inequality; Intra-household allocation; SOEP; gender;

    JEL classification:

    • D13 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Household Production and Intrahouse Allocation
    • D31 - Microeconomics - - Distribution - - - Personal Income and Wealth Distribution
    • D69 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Other
    • I31 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - General Welfare, Well-Being
    • J20 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - General


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