Household Wealth Inequality in International Comparison

Supported by the German-Israeli Foundation for Scientific Research and Development (2010-2012)

Project Description

This cross-national comparative project aims to study household wealth inequality. It moves beyond educational and labor market inequality and emphasizes the importance of household wealth as a central dimension of social stratification. The project starts out with a pilot study, comparing patterns of wealth inequality in Israel and Germany. In a second step and based on the results of the pilot study, the comparison is extended to thirteen additional modern societies (Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Poland, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland). The project focuses on the distribution of the components of wealth across sub-groups, tries to uncover the social mechanisms that generate wealth inequality along the life course, and analyses the impact of wealth on life course trajectories in the adult population.

The Household Wealth Inequality-project is based at the University of Bamberg and the Tel Aviv University (Prof. Moshe Semyonov & Prof. Noah Lewin-Epstein).

Wealth Inequality: Determinants and Consequences in Cross-national Comparative Perspective

The project proceeds in four steps:

  1. In the first step, the project will describe family wealth in Germany and Israel. It will investigate differences among population groups defined by occupational class, ethnicity, age, gender, migration status, and household status. We compare both differences in level of wealth and dispersion.
  2. In the second step, the project aims to analyze the determinants of variation in wealth. We evaluate the role of social background, labor market and household factors in contributing to differences in household wealth.
  3. In the third step, the project focuses on the relationship between family wealth (and its components) and the objective and subjective dimensions of quality of life, as reported by respondents. We examine how wealth is related to living conditions (quality of housing, level of expenditure) and subjective well-being as revealed in perceptions of making ends meet, perceived health, and life satisfaction.
  4. Finally, in a fourth step, the project will then focus on wealth inequalities from a cross-national perspective. Our aim here is to outline more systematically the context of wealth distribution and personal welfare in the countries under study using secondary sources and, then to study the actual wealth distribution and its relationship to quality of life, bringing out both the similarities and the differences between the countries.

Data Analyses

The recent release of the SHARE dataset is used to study wealth inequality, its determinants, and its consequences from an international comparative perspective and with a longitudinal perspective.

Time Frame

The project starts in January 2010. In the first research phase (January 2010 - March 2011), we plan to compare household wealth inequality and intergenerational transfers of wealth in Israel and Germany. In the second research phase (April 2011 - December 2012), we will extend our analyses of household wealth to thirteen additional modern societies.