, Volume 50, Issue 4, pp 1155-1176

First online:

Explaining the Gender Wealth Gap

  • Erin RuelAffiliated withDepartment of Sociology, Georgia State University Email author 
  • , Robert M. HauserAffiliated withCenter for Demography of Health and Aging, University of Wisconsin

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To assess and explain the United States’ gender wealth gap, we use the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study to examine wealth accumulated by a single cohort over 50 years by gender, by marital status, and limited to the respondents who are their family’s best financial reporters. We find large gender wealth gaps between currently married men and women, and between never-married men and women. The never-married accumulate less wealth than the currently married, and there is a marital disruption cost to wealth accumulation. The status-attainment model shows the most power in explaining gender wealth gaps between these groups explaining about one-third to one-half of the gap, followed by the human-capital explanation. In other words, a lifetime of lower earnings for women translates into greatly reduced wealth accumulation. After controlling for the full model, we find that a gender wealth gap remains between married men and women that we speculate may be related to gender differences in investment strategies and selection effects.


Gender Net worth Wealth gap Wisconsin Longitudinal Study