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The Carnegie Conjecture: Some Empirical Evidence


  • Douglas Holtz-Eakin
  • David Joulfaian
  • Harvey S. Rosen


This paper examines tax return-generated data on the labor force behavior of people before and after they receive inheritances. The results are consistent with Andrew Carnegie's century-old assertion that large inheritances decrease a person's labor force participation. For example, a single person who receives an inheritance of over $150,000 is roughly four times more likely to leave the labor force than a person with an inheritance below $25,000. Additional, albeit weaker, evidence suggests that large inheritances depress labor supply, even when participation is unaltered.

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  • Douglas Holtz-Eakin & David Joulfaian & Harvey S. Rosen, 1992. "The Carnegie Conjecture: Some Empirical Evidence," NBER Working Papers 4118, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:4118
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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Barro, Robert J, 1974. "Are Government Bonds Net Wealth?," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 82(6), pages 1095-1117, Nov.-Dec..
    2. B. Douglas Bernheim, 1987. "Ricardian Equivalence: An Evaluation of Theory and Evidence," NBER Chapters,in: NBER Macroeconomics Annual 1987, Volume 2, pages 263-316 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. David Joulfaian & Mark O. Wilhelm, 1994. "Inheritance and Labor Supply," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 29(4), pages 1205-1234.
    4. Bernheim, B Douglas & Shleifer, Andrei & Summers, Lawrence H, 1986. "The Strategic Bequest Motive," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 4(3), pages 151-182, July.
    5. Duncan, Greg J & Hill, Daniel H, 1989. "Assessing the Quality of Household Panel Data: The Case of the Panel Study of Income Dynamics," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 7(4), pages 441-452, October.
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    JEL classification:

    • C45 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Econometric and Statistical Methods: Special Topics - - - Neural Networks and Related Topics


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