Assessing the Relationship Between Gender, Household Structure, and Net Worth in the United States

Abstract

This paper examines wealth disparities by gender and household structure in the United States using data from the 1998–2013 Survey of Consumer Finances. Following studies of economic insecurity, we placed households at the center of our analysis to highlight the interconnected nature of wealth with multiple aspects of family structure. We investigated net worth by both gender and household structure, which includes variation by partnership status and the presence of other adult relatives and their roles within the household. We found that wealth disparities were largest among single adult households, but these varied by gender. Female single adult households held some of the lowest levels of net worth, but after accounting for key explanations of wealth inequality, single male households actually held greater wealth than two-adult partnered households. This relationship further depended on the presence of extended family members, where gender disparities were smaller among households with other relatives present.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    We used a modified OECD equivalency scale to create this variable (OECD 2013). This scale used 1 = first family member; 0.5 = each additional member age 18 or older; and 0.3 = children under 18.

  2. 2.

    Partners included married or cohabitating couples and spouses who resided within the same household.

  3. 3.

    In the case of race/ethnicity, only data for the respondent were provided. However, the survey also notes when the race of the spouse differs from that of the respondent. This only occurred in approximately 5% of cases. Unfortunately, the survey did not include additional data on immigration status.

  4. 4.

    Because many of these coefficients exceed 0.1, we used the following formula to determine the percent change in net worth for a one-unit change in each predictor variable: %Δ(y) = 100*(eb – 1) (Wooldridge 2009).

  5. 5.

    Additional models (available upon request) also showed that single-adult and extended households had lower levels of income and education than two-adult households, net of other covariates.

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Acknowledgements

This research was partially supported by a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Insight Development Grant (#430-2014-00092).

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Maroto, M., Aylsworth, L. Assessing the Relationship Between Gender, Household Structure, and Net Worth in the United States. J Fam Econ Iss 38, 556–571 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10834-017-9521-z

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Keywords

  • Household structure
  • Gender
  • Family demography
  • Wealth inequality
  • Economic insecurity