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Inheritance and Wealth Inequality: Evidence from Population Registers

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  • Elinder, Mikael

    () (Uppsala University)

  • Erixson, Oscar

    () (Uppsala University)

  • Waldenström, Daniel

    () (Paris School of Economics)

Abstract

We use new population-wide register data on inheritances and wealth in Sweden to estimate the causal impact of inheritances on wealth inequality. We find that inheritances reduce relative wealth inequality (e.g., the Gini coefficient falls by 5–10 percent) but that absolute dispersion increases. Examining different parts of the wealth distribution, we find that the top decile's wealth share decreases substantially, whereas the wealth share of the bottom half increases from a negative to a positive share. In essence, wealthier heirs inherit larger amounts, but less wealthy heirs inherit more relative to their pre-inheritance wealth. We also find that post-inheritance behavioral adjustments mitigate the equalizing effect of inheritances because less wealthy heirs consume larger shares of their inheritances. Moreover, we find that the Swedish inheritance tax reduced the equalizing inheritance effect but that the redistribution of tax revenues could reverse this result. Finally, we show that inheritances increase wealth mobility.

Suggested Citation

  • Elinder, Mikael & Erixson, Oscar & Waldenström, Daniel, 2016. "Inheritance and Wealth Inequality: Evidence from Population Registers," IZA Discussion Papers 9839, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp9839
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    Cited by:

    1. Kopczuk, Wojciech, 2016. "U.S. capital gains and estate taxation: a status report and directions for a reform," CEPR Discussion Papers 11208, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    2. Yoko Niimi & Charles Yuji Horioka, 2016. "The Impact of Intergenerational Transfers on Household Wealth Inequality in Japan and the United States," NBER Working Papers 22687, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. 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.
    4. Adrian Adermon & Mikael Lindahl & Daniel Waldenström, 2018. "Intergenerational Wealth Mobility and the Role of Inheritance: Evidence from Multiple Generations," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 128(612), pages 482-513, July.
    5. Bertrand Garbinti & Jonathan Goupille-Lebret & Thomas Piketty, 2017. "Accounting for Wealth Inequality Dynamics: Methods, Estimates and Simulations for France (1800-2014)," Working Papers 201605, World Inequality Lab.
    6. Marius Brülhart & Didier Dupertuis & Elodie Moreau, 2018. "Inheritance flows in Switzerland, 1911–2011," Swiss Journal of Economics and Statistics, Springer;Swiss Society of Economics and Statistics, vol. 154(1), pages 1-13, December.
    7. 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).
    8. Oscar Erixson, 2017. "Health responses to a wealth shock: evidence from a Swedish tax reform," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 30(4), pages 1281-1336, October.
    9. 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.
    10. Crusius, Tobias L. & von Werder, Marten, 2017. "The affluency to quit: How inheritances affect retirement plannings," Discussion Papers 2017/24, Free University Berlin, School of Business & Economics.
    11. Stefan Humer & Mathias Moser & Matthias Schnetzer, 2017. "Inheritances and the Accumulation of Wealth in the Eurozone," ICAE Working Papers 73, Johannes Kepler University, Institute for Comprehensive Analysis of the Economy.
    12. 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.
    13. Bastani, Spencer & Waldenström, Daniel, 2018. "How Should Capital Be Taxed? Theory and Evidence from Sweden," IZA Discussion Papers 11475, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    14. repec:eee:pubeco:v:168:y:2018:i:c:p:21-34 is not listed on IDEAS
    15. Goupille-Lebret, Jonathan & Infante, Jose, 2018. "Behavioral responses to inheritance tax: Evidence from notches in France," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 168(C), pages 21-34.
    16. repec:ces:ifodic:v:16:y:2018:i:2:p:50000000002754 is not listed on IDEAS
    17. repec:nbp:nbpbik:v:48:y:2017:i:3:p:295-326 is not listed on IDEAS
    18. 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.
    19. repec:eee:ecolet:v:159:y:2017:i:c:p:217-220 is not listed on IDEAS
    20. 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.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    bequests; estates; net worth; inheritance taxation; wealth distribution;

    JEL classification:

    • H24 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Personal Income and Other Nonbusiness Taxes and Subsidies
    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement
    • E21 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Consumption; Saving; Wealth

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