Explaining the Gender Wealth Gap

Abstract

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.

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Fig. 1

Notes

  1. 1.

    Other tables that include the non-BFR are available from the lead author by request.

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Acknowledgments

We would like to thank Dawn Baunach and Meredith Greif for commenting on an early draft of this article. The research reported herein was supported by the National Institute on Aging (R01 AG-9775, P01-AG21079 and T32-AG00129), by the William Vilas Estate Trust, and by the Graduate School of the University of Wisconsin–Madison. The opinions expressed here are those of the authors.

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Correspondence to Erin Ruel.

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Ruel, E., Hauser, R.M. Explaining the Gender Wealth Gap. Demography 50, 1155–1176 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13524-012-0182-0

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Keywords

  • Gender
  • Net worth
  • Wealth gap
  • Wisconsin Longitudinal Study