Gender and wealth in the super rich: asset differences in top wealth households in the United States, 1989–2019

Lisa A. Keister*, Hang Young Lee, Jill E. Yavorsky

*Corresponding author for this work

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Abstract

Wealth inequality is extreme and growing in the United States, and researchers have begun to explore the factors that are associated with membership in the top one percent of net worth owners. We contribute to this important literature by examining the association between gender and net worth in the U.S. super-rich. We propose that unmarried women, unmarried men, and married couples in the one percent are likely to have different levels of net worth and distinct patterns of asset holdings that reflect gender differences in income and saving, the household division of labor, work, and demographics. We use data from the 1989–2019 U.S. Survey of Consumer Finances (SCF), a unique data set that contains a high-income, high-wealth sample designed to accurately represent wealthy households. We find modest differences in total net worth among unmarried women, unmarried men, and married couples with unmarried women owning slightly less net worth than either unmarried men or married couples. We also find that unmarried women hold a lower percentage of their net worth in business assets and a higher percentage of their assets as trust accounts compared to unmarried men and married couples. Our findings contribute to the literature that explores the wealth of the super-rich and highlight the role that gender plays in these families. Our results also build on research on the role that business assets and trusts play in wealthy families and suggest that women may be dependent on others for access to the super-rich.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)25-55
Number of pages31
JournalSociologica
Volume15
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 30 Sep 2021

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2021. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.

Keywords

  • wealth
  • gender
  • inequality
  • top households
  • one percent

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