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Patterns of intergenerational wealth transmission

Research Achievements

Patterns of intergenerational wealth transmission

A multidisciplinary team including 3 IPEM faculty (Eric Smith, Donna Leonetti, and Rob Quinlan) and two past IPEM seminar speakers analyzed patterns of intergenerational wealth transmission in diverse non-industrial societies. The project developed statistical methods for measuring the correlation between the wealth of parents and that of their adult children, and compared empirical data to a mathematical model of long-term equilibria in wealth distributions. Results were published in Science and in Current Anthropology. Intergenerational transmission of wealth and wealth inequality are substantial among pastoral and small-scale agricultural societies (even exceeding the most unequal modern industrial economies) but are limited among horticultural and foraging peoples (equivalent to the most egalitarian modern industrial populations). Differences in technology and in the institutions and norms making up the economic system jointly contribute to this pattern.