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Gender, Marriage, and Asset Accumulation in the United States


  • Lucie Schmidt

    (Williams College)

  • Purvi Sevak

    (Hunter College)


Wealth accumulation has important implications for the relative well-being of households. In this paper, we describe how household wealth in the United States varies by gender and family type. We find evidence of large differences in observed wealth between single-female-headed households and married couples. Although some of this gap reflects differences in observable characteristics correlated with gender and wealth – such as position in the life cycle, education, and family earnings – controlling for these characteristics reduces but does not eliminate the estimated wealth gap. The wealth holdings of single females in the U.S., controlling for these same characteristics, are also significantly lower than the wealth holdings of single males in the U.S. In contrast, observed wealth gaps between genders in a sub-sample of young households disappear when controlling for observable characteristics, suggesting either that these gaps are disappearing for younger households or that these gaps do not emerge until later in life.

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  • Lucie Schmidt & Purvi Sevak, 2005. "Gender, Marriage, and Asset Accumulation in the United States," Working Papers wp109, University of Michigan, Michigan Retirement Research Center.
  • Handle: RePEc:mrr:papers:wp109

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Joyce P. Jacobsen, 2012. "Closing the Gender Gap: What Would It Take?," Wesleyan Economics Working Papers 2012-006, Wesleyan University, Department of Economics.
    2. Bertocchi, Graziella & Brunetti, Marianna & Torricelli, Costanza, 2011. "Marriage and other risky assets: A portfolio approach," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 35(11), pages 2902-2915, November.
    3. GRABKA Markus & MARCUS Jan & SIERMINSKA Eva, 2013. "Wealth distribution within couples and financial decision making," LISER Working Paper Series 2013-02, LISER.
    4. Smriti Rao & Hazel Malapit, 2015. "Gender, Household Structure and Financial Participation in the United States," Journal of Family and Economic Issues, Springer, vol. 36(4), pages 606-620, December.
    5. repec:pal:eurjdr:v:29:y:2017:i:2:d:10.1057_ejdr.2016.9 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. repec:spr:demogr:v:54:y:2017:i:3:d:10.1007_s13524-017-0572-4 is not listed on IDEAS
    7. Sierminska, Eva M. & Frick, Joachim R. & Grabka, Markus M., 2010. "Examining the gender wealth gap," EconStor Open Access Articles, ZBW - German National Library of Economics, pages 669-690.
    8. Grinstein-Weiss, Michal & Hun Yeo, Yeong & Zhan, Min & Charles, Pajarita, 2008. "Asset holding and net worth among households with children: Differences by household type," Children and Youth Services Review, Elsevier, vol. 30(1), pages 62-78, January.
    9. Anglade, Boaz & Useche, Pilar & Deere, Carmen Diana, 2017. "Decomposing the Gender Wealth Gap in Ecuador," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 96(C), pages 19-31.
    10. 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.
    11. 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.
    12. repec:kap:jfamec:v:38:y:2017:i:4:d:10.1007_s10834-017-9521-z is not listed on IDEAS
    13. Sierminska, Eva & Frick, Joachim R. & Grabka, Markus M., 2008. "Examining the Gender Wealth Gap in Germany," IZA Discussion Papers 3573, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    14. Angela Lyons & Urvi Neelakantan & Erik Scherpf, 2008. "Gender and Marital Differences in Wealth and Investment Decisions: Implications for Researchers, Financial Professionals, and Educators," NFI Working Papers 2008-WP-02, Indiana State University, Scott College of Business, Networks Financial Institute.
    15. Erin Ruel & Robert Hauser, 2013. "Explaining the Gender Wealth Gap," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 50(4), pages 1155-1176, August.
    16. Christopher R. Tamborini & Patrick Purcell, 2016. "Women’s Household Preparation for Retirement at Young and Mid-Adulthood: Differences by Children and Marital Status," Journal of Family and Economic Issues, Springer, vol. 37(2), pages 226-241, June.
    17. Judy Postmus & Sara-Beth Plummer & Sarah McMahon & Karen Zurlo, 2013. "Financial Literacy: Building Economic Empowerment with Survivors of Violence," Journal of Family and Economic Issues, Springer, vol. 34(3), pages 275-284, September.
    18. Jonathan Vespa & Matthew Painter, 2011. "Cohabitation History, Marriage, and Wealth Accumulation," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 48(3), pages 983-1004, August.
    19. Denise Doiron & Rochelle Guttmann, 2009. "Wealth Distributions of Migrant and Australian-born Households," The Economic Record, The Economic Society of Australia, vol. 85(268), pages 32-45, March.
    20. Kiran FATIMA & Abdul QAYYUM, 2016. "Analysing the Effect of Remittances on Rural Household in Pakistan," Turkish Economic Review, KSP Journals, vol. 3(2), pages 292-299, June.
    21. Raval, Vishvesh & Vyas, Khyati, 2013. "Financial freedom experience of Indian Male and Female Executives," MPRA Paper 49460, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    22. Carmen Diana Deere & Gina E. Alvarado & Jennifer Twyman, 2012. "Gender Inequality in Asset Ownership in Latin America: Female Owners vs Household Heads," Development and Change, International Institute of Social Studies, vol. 43(2), pages 505-530, March.
    23. Fatima, Kiran & Qayyum, Abdul, 2016. "Remittances and Asset Accumulation of Household in Pakistan," MPRA Paper 72945, University Library of Munich, Germany.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D3 - Microeconomics - - Distribution
    • J16 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Gender; Non-labor Discrimination
    • J12 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Marriage; Marital Dissolution; Family Structure

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