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The objective of this paper is to discuss how to measure the role ofintergenerational transfers for wealth using cross-national comparabledata sets constructed by the Luxembourg Wealth Study (LWS) project.
The most obvious use of the LWS data for studying intergenerationaltransfers is to estimate econometric models that can be used to predict“end of life” wealth. If the original data is of panel type, and it ispossible to find the reason why some households exit the survey, it isalso possible to account for actual “end of life” wealth. Finally, I believethat the most useful additional information for understanding transfersreceived is data on whether the individual’s/the spouses’ parents aredeceased and, if so, when and at what ages they died.
Keywords: wealth, bequests, inheritances, inter vivos gifts, savings
JEL classifications: C81, D10, D31, D91, H24
Correspondence: Henry Ohlsson, Department of Economics, Uppsala University, Box 513,
SE–751 20 Uppsala, Sweden, email <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
*The first version of this paper was prepared for the Perugia conference of the LuxembourgWealth Study (LWS) project in January 2005. Helpful comments and suggestions from
my discussant Luc Arrondel are gratefully acknowledged. The Swedish participation in
the LWS project has been made possible by a generous grant from the Swedish Council
for Working Life and Social Research (FAS).
The first version of this white paper was prepared for the Perugia conferenceof the Luxembourg Wealth Study (LWS) project in January 2005. Theobjective of the LWS project is to explore the possibility of constructingcross-national comparable data sets, establishing a network of producers ofmicro data on household wealth, and the production of guidelines for dataproducers.1
The guidelines for the LWS white papers state that (italics added by
Papers are meant to be broad surveys of conceptual and method-ological issues concerning wealth measurement. Papers have tobe thought as a guide to the construction and subsequent use ofthe LWS data. Suggestions for developments and improvementsin wealth data collection are welcome. The different facets ofthe issue at hand - both at the conceptual and practical lev-els - are to be discussed and assessed. The papers do not needto provide definite answers and solutions to all problems, butthey must have a clear identification of all relevant issues, and acomparative understanding of different practices.
There is a list of a dozen topics to be covered by the white papers.
The present paper belongs under the headline “Origins of personal wealth”.
It complements work by Giovanni D’Alessio and Romina Gambacorta (seeD’Alessio and Gambacorta, 2005).
The objective of this white paper is to discuss how to determine the
relative importance of intergenerational transfers (inheritances and intervivos gifts) and own savings for personal wealth.2 The transfers concernadults living in their own households and not, for example, children stillliving with their parents. Or to put it differently, suppose that we have crosssections or panels with micro data on individual and/or household wealth:What can we do with the available data? And which additional informationmight contribute the most for studying the role of intergenerational transfersfor wealth in retrospect and in the future?
Parents intentionally, but also unintentionally, make transfers to their
children in different ways. There are biological transfers of natural talents
1 See <http://www.lisproject.org/lws.htm> for basic information about the LWS
2 I do not discuss the institutions of bequest and their empirical relevance in a compre-
hensive way, an issue to be covered according to the LWS white paper guidelines.
and abilities. Purchases of education and other human capital investmentsare other ways of making transfers. Parents can also transfer financial andtangible property by bequests and inter vivos gifts.
Understanding the determinants of parental property transfers is crucial
for a wide range of economic issues. Some of these are the determinants ofsavings and wealth, the equality of opportunity, the possible effects of fiscalpolicy, and the optimal design of tax systems.
Parental property transfers are interrelated with savings and wealth.
Strong transfer motives will affect savings behavior. This concerns savedamounts but also the timing of savings over the life cycle. Second, parentalproperty transfers are also important when discussing the distribution ofincome and wealth. The extent to which wealth is carried over from onegeneration to the next affects how equal opportunities really are. Parentaltransfers may also decrease the efficiency of public redistribution by counter-acting the intended effects of public transfers. Public policy may, therefore,spread over several generations via the impact on private transfers.
Third, in macroeconomics, the Ricardian equivalence predictions, for
example about fiscal policy inefficiency, rest on the assumption of dynastic,altruistic, behavior. Finally, there are also public finance aspects of parentalproperty transfers. Estates, bequests, inheritances, and inter vivos gifts aresubject to taxation in many countries. Depending on the transfer motives,these taxes may or may not create excess burdens.
Transfer taxes tend to be controversial. During recent years there has
been a big discussion in the US and in many other countries about the“death tax”, see Gale et al. (2001). In many countries transfer taxes havebeen reduced or removed.3
The heat of the discussion is not, however, in proportion to the tax rev-
enue that these taxes generate. Figure 1 reports the revenue from transfertaxes as a share of GDP.4 Transfer taxes on average yielded tax revenuecorresponding to slightly less than 0.2 percent of GDP in the OECD coun-tries 2000. France is the country with the highest share, 0.6 percent ofGDP. Among the LWS countries, the US has the highest share followed byFinland and the UK. There are, however, several non LWS countries in theOECD that also raise comparatively much tax revenue with transfers taxes,for example, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Japan. The differences in taxrevenue, of course, depend on both differences in tax rates and in tax bases.
My three main conclusions from the discussion in the paper are:
• The most obvious use of the LWS data for studying intergenerational
3 Cremer and Pestieau (2003) is a recent survey of the research on taxation of wealth
4 The exact numbers are given in Table 1 in the Appendix.
Figure 1: Revenue from taxes on estates, inheritances, and gifts as percent-age of GDP, 2000. Source: OECD Revenue Statistics. Note. OECD doesnot report statistics for Cyprus.
transfers is to estimate models that can be used to compute age-wealthprofiles. Combined with (objective or subjective) mortality risks, it isthen possible to compute “end of life” wealth. This prediction of theestate gives information of the size of post mortem transfers.
• If the original data is of panel type and it is possible to find the reason
why some households exit the survey, it is also possible to account foractual “end of life” wealth. As few households exit because of deatheach year it will probably take some years until the sample sizes willbe large enough to draw reliable conclusions concerning actual “endof life” wealth.
• Some of the LWS data sets have information on whether the individ-
ual/the household has received inheritances and gifts, other data setsdo not have this information. In both cases, I believe that the mostuseful additional information for understanding transfers received isdata on whether the individual’s/the spouses’ parents are deceasedand, if so, when at what ages they died. With this information itis possible to separate individuals/households for which the parentaltransfers process is over from those for which the process still is goingon.
The paper is structured as follows: I discuss how to account for the im-
portance of intergenerational transfers for wealth in Section 2. Section 3discusses ways to predict how future intergenerational transfers might affectwealth. The theoretical literature on parental transfers is characterized bydifferent assumptions concerning parents’ motives for making transfers. It isnecessary to have an idea about the relative importance of the different mo-tives for predictions. Section 4 discusses transfer motives. It is an empiricalquestion to determine which of the motives are most important. Section 5concludes.
There are two main origins of wealth: own savings (life cycle wealth) andtransfers from others (transfer wealth). Similarly there two main intendeduses of wealth: own consumption and transfers to others. The topic of thissection is how to account for the origins of wealth whereas Section 3 discusseshow to predict the uses of wealth.
Davies and Shorrocks (1999) is an extensive survey of the research on the
distribution of wealth. Following Meade (1964), they discuss an accountingidentity for an individual/a household.5 I have amended the identity slightly:
where Wt is wealth at time t, Et is earned income, rt is the rate of return,Ct is consumption, It is inheritances received, and Gt is net inter vivos giftsreceived. Obviously, wealth at death equals the amount bequeathed by theindividual/the household. It is a great advantage if it is possible to separatetransfers between spouses from other transfers. Stepwise substitution, andassuming zero initial wealth, yields:
where I have assumed that the return on own saving, rs, might differ from
the return on transfers, rtr. There is no distinction here between what
people expected (income and transfers) and unexpected windfalls.6 It is, ofcourse, possible to make such distinction for both own savings and transfers.
If we sum over the whole population, assuming that there are no inter-
national transfers, all gifts between people still alive will net out. The onlyinter vivos gifts remaining will be those from people deceased at time t. Wehave that:
6 See also Bertaut and Haliassos (1997).
where Wt is aggregate wealth time t, St is the aggregate present value ofaccumulated own savings, It is the aggregate present value of accumulatedinheritances, and Gdt is the aggregate present value of accumulated intervivos gifts from people deceased at time t. It should be noted, however,that if we are interested in studying how transfers motives have affectedinter vivos gifts, potential information is lost if we do not include gifts frompeople still alive.
Life cycle wealth and transfers wealth are often calculated as shares of
total wealth, but sometimes these wealth components instead are related toincome measures such as total lifetime resources. The relative importance oflife cycle and transfer wealth may change if the age structure or the wealthdistribution changes, even if preferences remain the same.7
Kotlikoff and Summers (1981) made direct estimates of life cycle wealth
in the US. According to this paper life cycle wealth was 20 percent of totalwealth at the most. This result created a lot of discussion and it is, ofcourse, not clear cut how to distinguish between the two wealth componentsin practice. Modigliani (1988) instead reported direct estimates of transferwealth corresponding to 20 percent of total US wealth.
Davies and Shorrocks (1999) concludes that bequests accounts for 35–45
percent of aggregate wealth in the US. The recent paper by De Nardi (2004)compares Gale and Scholz (1994)’s estimate of the transfers wealth shareof 60 percent for the US with the bequest share (not including inter vivosgifts) for Sweden of 50 percent reported by Laitner and Ohlsson (1997).
I will focus on how to measure transfers wealth in the rest of this section.
But before doing this I would like to point out that there is a danger inmeasuring one of the components and then assuming that the residual isa measure of the other component. The residual is a measure of what wedon’t know, not what we know.
Survey based accounts of wealth transfers
One possible source of information for measuring transfer wealth are retro-spective survey questions about historic wealth transfers. These questionscan be asked donors as well as donees.
Some of the LWS data sets have information on inheritances and gifts
received. This is the case for Canada, Cyprus, Germany, Italy, and the US.
The data sets from Sweden and the UK do not have this information. It isnot clear to me if there is information on transfers received in the data setsfrom Norway and Finland.
I do not have access to the exact survey questions of the LWS data sets so
my examples of retrospective survey questions will come from other surveys.
7 Wealth inequality in the US and Great Britain is discussed in Banks et al. (2000)
whereas Jappelli and Pistaferri (2000) discuss wealth accumulation in Italy. Sabelhausand Pence (1999) study the impact of cohort effects on wealth using US data.
The comparison is also interesting in itself. My example of survey questionson the donee level is from the 1998 wave of the Swedish “Household marketand nonmarket activities”-survey (HUS). The data set is rich concerningproperty transfers.8 All adult members of the interviewed households wereasked:9
VAR 426 RECEIVED GIFT PP711 Loc 954 width 1MD=0 or GE 9PP711 (IF ANSWERED QUESTIONNAIRE - CODED 1 OR 2 AT RR04)Have you or anyone else in your household received a giftworth at least 1,000 SEK or equivalent value?
There is not only have information about the number and size of inter vivosgifts and inheritances, we also know from whom the transfer came; parents,relatives, or someone else. This makes it possible to isolate transfers fromparents to children. The questions concerns all transfers ever received. Aproblem is that it is not possible to determine if it is the respondent, thespouse, or someone else in the household who has received the transfer.
The example of survey questions on the donor level is from the US
“Health and Retirement Study” (HRS). In the first wave of HRS, respon-dents were asked the following question:
(Not counting any shared housing or shared food,)
Have you [and your (husband/partner)] given (yourchild/any of your children) financial assistancetotaling \$500 or more in the past 12 months?[IMPUTED]
money, helping pay bills, or covering specific typesof costs such as those for medical care orinsurance, schooling, down payment for a home, rent,etc.
The financial assistance can be considered
The definition of financial assistance is broad and might include paymentsthat may not be considered as inter vivos gifts in a more narrow sense, forexample schooling expenditure and loans.
8 Klevmarken (2004) discusses the relative importance of inheritances and gifts for total
net worth and wealth inequality using this data. Nordblom and Ohlsson (2003) use thisdata set to estimate gift and inheritance models.
9 The inheritance question is analogous.
It is, for obvious reasons, more difficult to ask retrospective questions
about bequests. The HRS has, however, done exit interviews with a surviv-ing spouse or child to, among other things, provide information about thedisposition of assets after death.
These surveys questions suggest the considerable problems of definitions,
measurement, etc that arise when one tries to measure transfers. I will givethree examples of problems that may arise:
• Some transfers are the results of insurance within the family. Such
transfers are as likely to go from child to parent as in the other di-rection. In the longer run these transfers should net out. It would besomewhat strange to classify these transfers as transfer wealth.
• It is common in many countries that transfers go directly from grand-
parents to grandchildren. Transfers taxes, for example, may give incen-tives to parents to pass on inheritances directly to their children. It isobvious that survey questions of the above types might have problemsto correctly pick up these kinds of transfers where three generationsare involved (Arrondel and Masson, 2001).
• It is difficult to distinguish parents’ human capital investment in their
From my own experience using different data sets when studying be-
quests, inheritances, and inter vivos gifts, I would like to point out somequestions that are important to include.10 This will partly be a wish list, itis a different question which information that one realistically can obtain inthe short run.
• Which are the birth years and death years of your parents?
• Have you ever received an inheritance/an inter vivos gift (given an
• How much, value when received before and after transfer taxes?
10 I have benefited a lot from discussions with John Laitner on how to formulate survey
questions on intergenerational transfers.
• Repeat all questions above for the spouse.
Some of the LWS data sets have some of this information, other data
sets do not have any of this information. In both cases, I believe thatthe most useful information for understanding transfers received is data onwhether the individual’s/the spouses’ parents are deceased and, if so, whenat what ages they died. With this information it is possible to separateindividuals/households for which the parental transfers process is over fromthose for which the process still is going on.
It might be possible to obtain the data on the first question from reg-
isters. In any case, it is probably easier to obtain survey responses onwhether parents are alive than responses on transfer amounts. Questionsabout transfers might induce non-response are often plagued by recall bias.
Register based accounts of wealth transfers
Estate records is one possible source of register based accounts of wealthtransfers. In Sweden estate records used to first be archived at the districtcourts and then at the regional archives. Since some years back the estaterecords are kept by the National Tax Board, and also in electronic databases. The National Tax Board is responsible for the national registrationsince the separation of the Church of Sweden from the State 1991. Theobvious problem with estate records is that there is only information aboutbequests and not inter vivos gifts.
Inter vivos gifts can be captured by tax registers provided that there is
a gift tax, that the amount is taxable, and that the tax is not evaded. InSweden the National Tax Board keeps the registers of wealth and transferstaxes. But from 2005 there will no longer exist any transfers tax registerssimply because the inheritance tax and the gift tax have been repealed.
One possible source of information for predicting transfer wealth are prospec-tive survey questions about future wealth transfers. These questions can beasked donors about transfers intended (planned) to be made. It is also pos-sible to ask potential donees about transfers expected to be received. As faras I understand, there is no information in any of the LWS data sets aboutintended and expected transfers.
The example of survey questions trying to capture intended/planned
transfers of donors is from the second wave of the HRS-survey.
What are the chances that you [or your (husband/wife/partner)] will leave an inheritance totalling\$100,000 or more?[NOTE: Include properties and other valuable itemsas well as money here.]
Hurd and Smith (2001) use HRS to compare anticipated bequests ac-
cording to the above question with actual bequests according to the exitinterviews done by HRS. Anticipated and actual bequests might differ in asystematic way if the perceived mortality risk by the individual differ fromthe objective mortality risks. Hurd and Smith (2002) and Gan et al. (2004)discuss the implications of this for bequests (compare also Hamermesh andMenchik, 1987).
I have two examples of survey questions about transfers that donees
expect to receive. The first is from the HUS-survey.
SS348 Is it likely that you (or your spouse or partner) willreceive an inheritance sometime in the future that would belarge enough to make a substantial difference in your financialsituation?
There is a similar question in the 1984 wave of the US Panel Study of
What about future inheritances--are you fairly sure
that you (or someone in your family living there) will inheritsome money or property in the next ten years?}
There is, to my knowledge, no research on how accurate the expectations
on transfers to be received are. Katarina Nordblom, G¨oteborg University,and I have designed a research project where we intend to compare expectedtransfers with the actual outcomes. We also plan to compare the subjectivetransfer probabilities, as measured by survey questions of the above type,with more objective predictions based on estimated econometric models.
Starting with donors, it is possible to estimate direct models for the amountsbequeathed and the amounts given using samples of micro data. The es-timated models can then be used to predict the transfer behavior of othersamples.
But there is also an indirect way of estimating the amounts bequeathed.
The starting point here is to estimate wealth models using samples of microdata. Next, the age-wealth profiles can be predicted for the original sampleor other samples. Combining these profiles with estimated (objectively orsubjectively) mortality risks will then give estimates of wealth at the end oflife which is the amount bequeathed.11 The LWS data sets probably havetheir most obvious use for this kind of models.
It is also possible to estimate direct models for the amounts inherited
and the amounts received as inter vivos gifts using samples of micro data.
Predictions of inheritances and gifts for other samples can then be doneusing the estimated models.
Economic theory has an important role in suggesting explanatory variablesfor the transfer and wealth models. Most of these variables capture variouspersonal characteristics of the donor and the donee.
There are, however, different hypotheses about transfer motives in the
literature. The transfer motive will, of course, affect the uses of wealth. Ifthere are strong bequest motives, for instance, wealth will be higher thanotherwise, at least at older ages of the donor.
The empirical models can be used to test theories about transfer motives.
The models can also be used to predict future transfers. The question is:How will knowledge of transfers motives help us in predicting? One exampleis that theory suggests that transfers are increasing in the income of donors.
This is also confirmed in the empirical literature. From this it is possible byto conclude that transfers can be predicted to increase if aggregate incomeis expected to grow.
But theory might also suggest how estimated relationships might change
when things that have been constant start to change. Let us think about thefollowing example. Theory suggests that absence of annuities markets willincrease (accidental) transfers. The empirical literature has had problemsto test this simply because there is so little variation in the availability ofannuities. Still, we know that the development of more advanced annuitiesmarkets probably will decrease (accidental) transfers.
11 Altonji and Villanueva (2003) use this approach to estimate the amounts bequeathed
whereas they estimate direct models for the amounts given.
I will start this section by discussing how motives affect total trans-
fers. I will then go on to discuss what theory says about the timing oftransfers, that is the choice between inter vivos gifts (early transfers) andbequests/inheritances (late transfers).
There are several theories suggesting different motives for intergenerationaltransfers. Most of these deal with bequests from parents, which are themost common property transfers. Bequests may be accidental but there arealso altruistic, exchange, egoistic, biological (evolutionary), and risk–sharingmotives suggested in the literature.12 Inter vivos gifts, on the other hand,are never accidental.13
Altruism. This is the Becker (1974) and Barro (1974) framework. Con-
sider an altruistic parent who has several children. The parent cares abouther own lifetime consumption and the children’s lifetime consumption possi-bilities. The parent will try to equalize the consumption possibilities of thechildren.14 Higher lifetime income for a child relative to the siblings reducesthe lifetime transfers received. Higher lifetime resources for the parent leadsto more transfers to all children. Similarly, higher lifetime income for asibling also increases the lifetime transfer to a child.
What matters are the total resources of the other people in the family,
not the distribution within the family. A child will only get more if familylifetime resources increase. The altruistic model generates an adding–upcondition. If the parent gains a dollar in permanent income while a childloses the same amount in permanent income, a one dollar gift will restorethe initial optimal allocation of resources.15
Sometimes parents want to make negative (reverse) transfers. There is
often, however, a non–negativity constraint making this impossible. Insteadthe parent is forced into a corner solution with no transfers, see, e.g., Drazen(1978). As pointed out by, e.g., Laitner (1997) this becomes more likely thehigher child resources compared to parents’ resources and the lower thedegree of altruism.
There are also models with two–sided altruism where a child also cares
about the parent’s utility. This will create a strategic game between theparent and the child.
Exchange. Bernheim et al. (1985) and Cox (1987) present versions of
the exchange model. In this model, the parent does not care about the
12 See Masson and Pestieau (1997) for an overview of different bequest motives and their
13 Laitner (1997) surveys the literature on intergenerational transfers.
14 The stronger the parent’s altruism the more the parent wants to equalize.
15 Altonji et al. (1997) and Laitner and Ohlsson (2001) test this derivative condition.
McGarry (2000) stresses that the condition does not necessarily apply to current income.
consumption possibilities of the children. Instead she values the attention ofthe children more than services otherwise purchased in anonymous markets.
Suppose a parent obtains such attention in proportion to the amount shegives to each child. Higher income of the parent will tend to result inmore gifts (more attention purchased from the children), but also more ownconsumption.
Since the opportunity cost of each child’s time is increasing in his income,
the implicit price the parent will have to pay for attention will tend to beincreasing in the child’s income. The probability that the parent makes anypurchases at all will, therefore, be decreasing in child income.
Given that the parent makes purchases (transfers), the impact of the
children’s incomes on total spending is, however, ambiguous. Suppose thatthe price elasticity is low because there are no close substitutes to the servicesof a particular child. The amount will then be increasing in the child’sincome. If, on the other hand, the price elasticity is high, the amountdecreases in the child’s income.
Transactions costs—in the form of travel or travel time costs—suggest
that children living closer to their parents need relatively lower compensa-tion. Parent’s poor health may mean higher demand for attention or highercompensation payments.
Egoism, warm glow. In another frequently used model (e.g. Blinder,
1974; Andreoni, 1989; Hurd, 1989), a parent derives utility from the amountit gives (joy of giving or warm glow) but not from the utility the childactually derives from the resulting transfer. This is sometimes called theegoistic model.
Compared to the altruistic model, there are no differences of the effects
of the parent’s income. The models differ in the implications of children’sincomes. Transfer behavior according to the egoistic model is not affectedby the incomes of the children.
Biology, evolution. Cox (2003) argues that parents make transfers to
promote the survival of their genes. Variables that capture this desire—e.g.,demographic variables—will affect transfers, even controlling for income.
This would give parents a motive to give more to biological children
than adopted and step children. Mothers are more likely to give than fa-thers because of paternity uncertainty.16 Maternal grandmothers are alsomore likely to give than paternal grandmothers and grandfathers. Childrenwith children of their own will also probably get more. It is, however, anopen question if parents give priority to actual grandchildren or potentialgrandchildren. Daughters would get more than sons because of the paternityuncertainty of the grandchildren.
Risk-sharing, uncertainty, insurance. Transfers within families are also
16 See Argus and Peters (2001) for an economic paper on the effects of paternity uncer-
discussed in the literature on risk sharing within families. Intra-family trans-fers may be the result of informal insurance arrangements within the familyin situations when insurance markets are missing or when insurance marketsare affected by adverse selection and moral hazard. Usually these transferscompensate for temporary rather than permanent income losses. Kimball(1988) and Coate and Ravallion (1993) discuss risk sharing in the absence ofinsurance markets. Kotlikoff and Spivak (1981) study how families providesubstitutes to annuities from insurance markets.
Suppose households cannot insure because of imperfect markets for an-
nuities. And suppose that there is no risk-sharing within the family. Insteadhouseholds have to save for a long retirement. If they die young, their un-used resources become accidental bequests. If they live a long time, theymay die with little or no estate. The accidental model of Davies (1981) isa version of the life–cycle model. Friedman and Warshawsky (1990) reportrather ambivalent support for the model.
Parents can make transfers during their lifetime—inter vivos gifts. An al-ternative is to bequeath, thus making the transfer post mortem. Why giftsand not bequests?
Early, gifts. The existence of liquidity constraints may make parents
choose gifts rather than bequests (Bernheim et al., 1985). It is difficult forchildren to borrow against future inheritances because of imperfect marketsand asymmetric information.
Late, bequests. Parents may, on the other hand, choose to postpone
transfers as long as possible for strategic reasons (Cremer and Pestieau,1996). The motivation for this is to provide the right incentives to studyand work for the children.
There are also papers assuming that the actions of a selfish child affects
the income of an altruistic parent. In the model of Bruce and Waldman(1990) inter vivos gifts and bequests are substitutes in the following sense:17If inter vivos gifts are large enough there will be no bequests. The parentis, however, in a second best situation. If the parent only bequeaths aselfish child will, on the one hand, act so as to maximize the total income ofthe family.18 But he will, on the other hand, save too little the first periodexpecting the parent to bequeath the second period. This is the Samaritan’sDilemma. If the parent instead chooses only to transfer inter vivos duringthe first period, the child will choose to save an efficient amount. Theproblem is that the child will not act as to maximize total family income
17 See also Lindbeck and Weibull (1988).
18 The Rotten Kid theorem, see Becker (1974), says that if all family members receive
gifts from an altruistic parent, it will be in the interest even of selfish family members tomaximize total family income. See also Bergstrom (1989).
during the first period. Instead it will be a Rotten Kid maximizing its ownincome at the expense of the parent. There can thus be an efficiency tradeoff between inter vivos gifts and bequests.
The existence of gift, estate, and inheritance taxation may also affect the
choice between gifts and bequests by creating incentives for tax avoidance.
Nordblom and Ohlsson (2004) find that transfer taxes may increase bequestsat the expense of inter vivos gifts compared to a situation without transfertaxes.
The objective of this white paper is to discuss how to determine the relativeimportance of intergenerational transfers (inheritances and inter vivos gifts)and own savings for personal wealth when we have cross sections or panelswith micro data on individual and/or household wealth. What can we dowith the available data? And which additional information might contributethe most for studying the role of intergenerational transfers for wealth inretrospect and in the future?
My three main conclusions from the discussion in the paper are:
• The most obvious use of the LWS data for studying intergenerational
transfers is to estimate models that can be used to compute age-wealthprofiles. Combined with (objective or subjective) mortality risks, it ispossible to compute “end of life” wealth. This prediction of the estategives information of the size of post mortem transfers.
• If the original data is of panel type and it is possible the reason why
some households exit the survey, it is also possible to account for actual“end of life” wealth. As few households exits because of death eachyear it will probably take some years until the sample sizes will belarge enough to draw reliable conclusions concerning actual “end oflife” wealth
• Some of the LWS data sets have information on whether the individ-
ual/the household has received inheritances and gifts, other data setsdo not have this information. In both cases, I believe that the mostuseful additional information for understanding transfers received isif the individual’/the spouses’ parents are deceased and, if so, whichyears they died. With this information it is possible to separate in-dividuals/households for which the parental transfers process is overfrom those for which the process still is going on.
Unfortunately, the LWS data sets cannot shed so much light on inter
vivos gifts. Some of the data sets have information on gifts received. In
these cases it is possible to estimate direct models of gifts received. Butage-wealth profiles cannot be used for indirect estimates of amounts givenwhile this is possible to do for bequests. In some sense, the LWS data setsare like estate records giving information about bequests but not gifts.
Table 1: Revenue from taxes on estates, inheritances, and gifts as percentageof GDP, 2000.
Source: OECD Revenue Statistics.
Note. OECD does not report statistics for Cyprus.
Altonji, J. G., Hayashi, F. and Kotlikoff, L. J.: 1997, Parental altruism and
inter vivos transfers: Theory and evidence, Journal of Political Economy105(6), 1121–1166.
Altonji, J. G. and Villanueva, E.: 2003, The marginal propensity to spend
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Andreoni, J.: 1989, Giving with impure altruism: Applications to charity
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Argus, L. M. and Peters, H. E.: 2001, Interactions between unmarried fa-
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Spaghetti malfunction A trip to Tuscany proved to me that Italian food is getting better and better. But now I have to face facts: I just can't make pasta The first posh, grown-up food I ever ate was French because, in the 1980s, France was where aspirational British families went on their holidays. In their cars, with maps, green Michelin guides and plenty of soluble aspirin (to be
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