Published June 2011
In this paper we document the evolution of the annual flow of inheritances in the UK during the period 1984-2005 and provide estimates for the overall magnitude and the distribution of inherited wealth. Our results indicate that the period under examination the annual flow of inheritance increased markedly, from £22 billion in 1984 to £56 billion in 2005. The main drivers behind this increase were the rise in house prices and to a lesser extent the increase in the proportion of inheritances which included housing assets. Our results, based on analysis of survey data, show that the distribution of inheritances is characterized by a very high degree of inequality (comparable by and large to that observed in personal wealth) and that this has increased over time. However, the inequality increasing effect from the greater inequality in the distribution of inheritance was counterbalanced by the increase in the percentage of the population who received an inheritance. Our results also show that inheritance is positively associated with socio-economic status and that the disparities between groups became slightly more pronounced over time (mainly across educational groups). However, our evidence also shows that inheritance for the majority of recipients is fairly small and that large inheritances are limited to a very small minority of the population.
Paper Number CASE/146:
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JEL Classification: D10, D31