The lasting effect of intergenerational wealth transfers: Human capital, family formation, and wealth

Richard A. Benton, Lisa A. Keister

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Recent evidence indicates that inheritances and other intergenerational wealth transfers have only a limited effect on wealth inequality and the intergenerational transmission of financial well-being. In this study, we explore the role that human capital and family formation play in mediating the relationship between receiving a transfer and building wealth. We examine how educational attainment and family formation determine whether or not households are able to convert inheritances into greater assets, facilitating improved wealth accumulation. Using data from the Panel Study for Income Dynamics (PSID), we examine how these factors moderate wealth accumulation trajectories following a bequest or inter vivos gift. Results reveal that educational attainment and marriage each facilitate wealth accumulation following a transfer. Our evidence suggests that cumulative advantage processes produce divergent wealth accumulation trajectories but these are situated in important turning points in the life course.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-14
Number of pages14
JournalSocial Science Research
StatePublished - Nov 2017


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Sociology and Political Science

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