Wealth and Opportunity

Wealth (net worth) is distributed much more unequally than any other dimension of socio-economic well-being. I document this inequality as it differs across time and countries:

  • Pfeffer, Fabian T., Sheldon Danziger, and Robert F. Schoeni. Forthcoming. “Wealth Disparities Before and After the Great Recession”. Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 650(1): 98-123  (link)
  • International comparisons of wealth inequality & mobility (in progress)

This stark inequality in wealth can be shown to be tied to inequalities in attainment opportunities for the next generation. I attempt to uncover the causal mechanisms behind these intergenerational wealth effects through both cross-national and within-country analyses. In particular, I seek empirical evidence for what I call the “insurance function” of wealth:

  • Wealth and Mobility Regimes. The United States, Germany, and Sweden in Comparison (working paper)
  • Pfeffer, Fabian T. 2011. “Status Attainment and Wealth in the United States and Germany”. Pp. 109-137 in Smeeding, Timothy, Robert Erikson, and Markus Jäntti (eds.). Persistence, Privilege, and Parenting. The Comparative Study of Intergenerational Mobility. New York: Russell Sage Foundation (link)
  • Are Wealth Gaps in Education Growing? (working paper available upon request)

Wealth may also provide an important safety net for intragenerational mobility by buffering adverse shocks to economic well-being. An ongoing project investigates whether wealth attenuates the income scarring effects of unemployment and does so differently across institutional contexts.

  • Wealth and unemployment in comparative perspective (in progress)