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Intergenerational transfers and the accumulation of wealth

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  • W. G. Gale
  • J. K. Scholz

Abstract

This paper provides evidence on the role of intergenerational transfers as a source of wealth. We use household data on transfers to provide direct estimates of transfer wealth, as we distinguish between intended transfers (for example, gifts to other households) and possible unintended transfers (bequests). We estimate that intended transfers account for at least 20 percent of net worth, and possibly significantly more. Thus a significant portion of U.S. wealth accumulation cannot be explained by the life-cycle model (according to which wealth is accumulated and consumed within a lifetime), even when the model is augmented to allow for bequests. We also show, contrary to many studies of transfers that focus only on bequests, that transfers between living persons are an important component of aggregate transfers.

Suggested Citation

  • W. G. Gale & J. K. Scholz, "undated". "Intergenerational transfers and the accumulation of wealth," Institute for Research on Poverty Discussion Papers 1019-93, University of Wisconsin Institute for Research on Poverty.
  • Handle: RePEc:wop:wispod:1019-93
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D91 - Microeconomics - - Micro-Based Behavioral Economics - - - Role and Effects of Psychological, Emotional, Social, and Cognitive Factors on Decision Making
    • D31 - Microeconomics - - Distribution - - - Personal Income and Wealth Distribution

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