It all runs in the family? A life course perspective on intergenerational family positions and wealth accumulation

Hünteler , B. M., Nutz, T., Wörn, J.
SocArxiv papers
52 pages.
submitted: 08 May 2023; last edited: 09 May 2023 (2023), unpublished
Open Access


Prior research has widely acknowledged the consequences of specific family transitions (e.g., death of a parent) for individual wealth holdings. However, individual’s wealth accumulation is a non-linear long-term process that is subject to multiple family transitions occurring at different life stages and in various orderings. They might mutually shape wealth accumulation both in the shorter and longer run. We combine sequence, cluster, and regression analyses to describe how the accumulation of wealth between ages 40 and 64 differs by typical patterns of family life courses using Norwegian register data of individuals born in 1953 (N = 47,945). We consider the death of the parent generation and the transition into grandparenthood as the main events in this age group, while additionally distinguishing by parenthood. Individuals with a later transition into (grand)parenthood occupied stable and high wealth positions over time. Individuals without children exhibited a steady increase in their relative wealth. Additionally, experiencing parental death later in life was associated with increasing wealth, whereas early parental death was not. These results held net of potential selection by gender and highest education. Pronounced and even increasing wealth differences over the life course seem to be associated with the interplay of multiple family transitions.

Keywords: Norway, family demography, inequality, population registers, wealth
The Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR) in Rostock is one of the leading demographic research centers in the world. It's part of the Max Planck Society, the internationally renowned German research society.