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The Importance of Gifts and Inheritances Among the Affluent


  • Michael D. Hurd
  • B. Gabriela Mundaca


Using data from the 1964 Survey of the Economic Behavior of the Affluent, we estimate directly the fraction of household assets which come from inheritances and the fraction from gifts. These data are well suited for this calculation because the survey is heavily weighted toward households with high incomes, and because the respondents were directly asked about the sources of their wealth. We estimate that 15-202 of household wealth came from inheritances and 5-102 from gifts. Even in households with very high incomes, very few people say that a large fraction of their assets were inherited or were given to them. According to the responses in this survey, it is not creditable that as much as 50% of household assets came from gifts and inheritances. Using data from the 1983 Survey of Consumer Finances with high income supplement, we roughly confirm the 1964 results, although the 1983 data are much less complete than the 1964 data.

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  • Michael D. Hurd & B. Gabriela Mundaca, 1987. "The Importance of Gifts and Inheritances Among the Affluent," NBER Working Papers 2415, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:2415
    Note: AG

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    Cited by:

    1. Wojciech Kopczuk & Joseph P. Lupton, 2007. "To Leave or Not to Leave: The Distribution of Bequest Motives," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 74(1), pages 207-235.
    2. Rajnish Mehra & Facundo Piguillem & Edward C. Prescott, 2011. "Costly financial intermediation in neoclassical growth theory," Quantitative Economics, Econometric Society, vol. 2(1), pages 1-36, March.
    3. Rajnish Mehra & Facundo Piguillem & Edward C. Prescott, 2007. "Intermediated quantities and returns," Working Papers 655, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
    4. Jeffrey Brown & Scott Weisbenner, 2004. "Intergenerational Transfers and Savings Behavior," NBER Chapters,in: Perspectives on the Economics of Aging, pages 181-204 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Michael D. Hurd, 1989. "Issues and Results from Research on the Elderly I: Economic Status (Part I of III Parts)," NBER Working Papers 3018, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Jeffrey R. Brown & Scott J. Weisbenner, 2002. "Is a Bird in Hand Worth More than a Bird in the Bush? Intergenerational Transfers and Savings Behavior," NBER Working Papers 8753, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Edward Wolff & Maury Gittleman, 2014. "Inheritances and the distribution of wealth or whatever happened to the great inheritance boom?," The Journal of Economic Inequality, Springer;Society for the Study of Economic Inequality, vol. 12(4), pages 439-468, December.
    8. William G. Gale & John Karl Scholz, 1994. "Intergenerational Transfers and the Accumulation of Wealth," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 8(4), pages 145-160, Fall.
    9. George Constantinides & John Donaldson & Rajnish Mehra, 2007. "Junior is rich: bequests as consumption," Economic Theory, Springer;Society for the Advancement of Economic Theory (SAET), vol. 32(1), pages 125-155, July.
    10. Beverly, Sondra G. & Sherraden, Michael, 1999. "Institutional determinants of saving: implications for low-income households and public policy," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 28(4), pages 457-473.
    11. Peter Mooslechner & Martin Schürz & Pirmin Fessler, 2008. "How Inheritances Relate to Wealth Distribution? Theoretical Reasoning and Empirical Evidence on the Basis of LWS Data," LWS Working papers 6, LIS Cross-National Data Center in Luxembourg.

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