CE41 - Inégalités, discriminations, migrations

Wealth Inequality and Demographic Events – WIDE

Submission summary

Wealth inequality has increased over the last decades in France. Recent studies have also documented an increasing gender wealth gap. But most studies on wealth inequality analyze cross-sectional wealth inequality; they do not document how wealth changes throughout life.

Wealth accumulation is related to professional trajectory through savings on earnings and to family background—directly through inheritances and bequests, and indirectly through their impact on education and professional trajectory. Recent advances have shown that wealth accumulation is strongly related to marital trajectories—especially for women. The diversification of marital and professional trajectories calls for an analysis of wealth accumulation at the individual level, and not at the household level.

The WIDE project proposes to enhance our understanding of the socio-demographic drivers of wealth inequality in France, across socio-demographic groups and across genders. It will analyze how individuals accumulate wealth over their life course. It will study the impact of life events occurring at various stage of the life course: during childhood (death of a parent, divorce of parents), during adult age (partnership formation and dissolution, birth of a child) and at old ages (retirement, death of a spouse). We will bring together the literature on wealth inequality, with economic, demographic and sociological literature on the impact of life events on economic outcomes.

The WIDE project aims at enhancing our understanding of wealth inequality over two dimensions—moving from a household perspective to an individual perspective, and moving from a cross-sectional analysis to a longitudinal analysis. These two innovations make it possible to extend the study of wealth accumulation at all ages, including under-age children. Using longitudinal data and methods, we will explore how dynamics of wealth accumulation are associated with individual trajectories, starting from childhood.

We will use a valuable data source, the Enquête Patrimoine (French Wealth Survey). Since 1986, the INSEE (French national bureau for Statistics) have collected cross-sectional data covering roughly 12,000 households every 6 years. Since 2014, surveyed households have been interviewed every three years. Precise information on each assets allows reconstructing wealth at individual level, even within households. It is a unique data source to follow wealth of individuals longitudinally. We will use other source of data to enhance our analysis on some specific points: historical data, ethnological material, data on divorces, housing data and fiscal data.

The WIDE project follows the lifecycle of individuals. We will start studying wealth inequality during childhood (children’s assets and parental wealth); and how childhood circumstances affect wealth later in life. Then, we will analyze the links between wealth accumulation and partnership formation and dissolution. France presents an interesting legal structure regarding partnerships. It induces large variations in the marital status over time of individuals, who often go from one type of union to the other over their life course. Our study of wealth over the life course will end with a focus on the links between life events at older ages and reallocation and (dis-)accumulation of wealth. We will examine the impact of two life milestones (retirement and widowhood) and important milestones in the life of their descendants (divorce of a child, birth of grandchildren). In the last part, we will investigate the differentiated impact of the COVID-19 on wealth across gender.

The WIDE project is an ambitious research project that will bring new perspectives to the issue of wealth inequality over the life cycle. It brings together 11 researchers, specialized in different topics (demography, sociology, economics, history) and aspects of the project. A data manager and a postdoctoral researcher will join the team later.

Project coordination

Marion Leturcq (Démographie économique)

The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.


DEMO ECO Démographie économique

Help of the ANR 332,541 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: February 2022 - 48 Months

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