External Publication

Wealth distribution and social mobility

This report explores the distribution of household wealth in the EU Member States and analyses the role of wealth in social mobility.

By: and Date: April 1, 2021 Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance

This report was prepared for the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions. The report is available on Eurofound’s website at Wealth distribution and social mobility | Eurofound (europa.eu). Copyright remains with Eurofound at all times.

Abstract

This report explores the distribution of household wealth in the EU Member States and analyses the role of wealth in social mobility. Using data from three datasets (the Household Finance and Consumption Survey, the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe and the Luxembourg Wealth Study), it focuses on wealth per household member. Wealth composition is compared across social groups and countries, and the role of housing assets in wealth distribution and negative wealth is assessed. The findings show that parental background, including parental wealth, has an impact on educational and wealth mobility. In order to promote equality of opportunities in terms of access to education and housing, the impact of wealth inequalities, including differences in parental wealth, should be counterbalanced. The report also suggests that regularising wealth declaration in the EU could be a way of promoting social justice by minimising hidden wealth and combating tax evasion.

Key findings

  • Wealth, or the lack of it, has major implications for a person’s opportunities in life. In the EU, there is an enormous gap in wealth: the gross assets of those in the top wealth quintile in the 21 EU Member States examined are 60 times larger compared to those in the bottom wealth quintile.
  • For the wealthiest in the EU, substantial incomes are generated through self-employed business, financial assets and real estate. The least wealthy – the 4% with negative wealth – tend to be people who are young, income- and asset-poor, unemployed and renting their accommodation, and who draw on private loans and credit lines. Less than one-fifth of people with negative net wealth are homeowners with mortgages.
  • Inclusive growth, with equal opportunities as a core principle, is at the centre of the EU’s growth strategy and the European Pillar of Social Rights. To counterbalance wealth differences, public policies for equal opportunities will be required to secure good living conditions during childhood, ensure minimum educational attainment and promote access to higher education.
  • To support inclusive growth and equal opportunities, it is critical that housing policies support fair and efficient ways to increase housing supply in cities, improve public transport and incentivise teleworking to reduce the demand on overcrowded city centres. To achieve this, a balance between supporting homeownership and providing public housing will be essential.
  • The introduction of a compulsory wealth declaration would help to clamp down on hidden wealth and hidden income, and go some way towards addressing wealth inequalities. Promoting financial literacy could also foster greater asset diversification to the benefit of the less well-off.

This report presents the results of research conducted largely prior to the outbreak of COVID-19 in Europe in February 2020. For this reason, the results do not fully take account of the outbreak.

Read article More on this topic More by this author
 

Podcast

Podcast

The Sound of Gita Gopinath

IMF Chief Economist Gita Gopinath joins Bruegel Director Guntram Wolff to discuss the uneven recovery from the pandemic with a live clubhouse audience.

By: The Sound of Economics Topic: Global Economics & Governance Date: May 6, 2021
Read article More on this topic More by this author
 

Blog Post

Algorithmic management is the past, not the future of work

Algorithmic management is the twenty-first century’s scientific management. Job quality measures should be included explicitly in health and safety risk assessments for workplace artificial-intelligence systems.

By: Laura Nurski Topic: Innovation & Competition Policy Date: May 6, 2021
Read about event More on this topic
 

Past Event

Past Event

Divergent Recoveries from the Pandemic: Conversation with IMF Chief Economist Gita Gopinath and Bruegel Director Guntram Wolff

In this episode of The Sound of Economics Live, IMF Chief Economist Gita Gopinath and Bruegel Director Guntram Wolff will debate the uneven recovery from the pandemic.

Speakers: Gita Gopinath and Guntram B. Wolff Topic: Global Economics & Governance Location: Bruegel, Rue de la Charité 33, 1210 Brussels Date: May 5, 2021
Read article More on this topic
 

Blog Post

China’s M&A activity rebounds with a clear focus on Europe

Despite the pandemic, China’s interest in overseas M&A started to rebound in late 2020, with European industrial companies still of particular interest.

By: Alicia García-Herrero and Jianwei Xu Topic: Global Economics & Governance Date: May 4, 2021
Read article Download PDF More on this topic
 

Working Paper

Reducing mobility of SARS-CoV-2 variants to safeguard containment

Escape variants can cause new waves of COVID-19 and put vaccination strategies at risk. To prevent or delay the global spread of these waves, virus mobility needs to be minimised through screening and testing strategies, which should also cover vaccinated people. The costs of these strategies are minimal compared to the costs to health, society and economy from another wave.

By: Martin Hellwig, Viola Priesemann and Guntram B. Wolff Topic: Global Economics & Governance Date: May 4, 2021
Read article More on this topic More by this author
 

Blog Post

Confronting the risks: corporate debt in the wake of the pandemic

As European economies emerge from lockdowns, it is becoming clearer that corporate debt has reached critical levels. A new French scheme, in which the state guarantees portfolios of subordinated debt, shows how financial support could be targeted better.

By: Alexander Lehmann Topic: Finance & Financial Regulation Date: April 28, 2021
Read about event More on this topic
 

Past Event

Past Event

Living standards and financial resilience across Europe

What has the impact of the pandemic on households’ financial resilience been, and how should policy makers respond?

Speakers: Romina Boarini, Zsolt Darvas, Maria Demertzis and Daniel Tomlinson Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: April 21, 2021
Read article More on this topic More by this author
 

Podcast

Podcast

Africa's battle with COVID-19

How can we ensure a worldwide balanced and inclusive recovery from the Covid pandemic?

By: The Sound of Economics Topic: Global Economics & Governance Date: April 21, 2021
Read article More on this topic
 

Blog Post

The impact of COVID-19 on artificial intelligence in banking

COVID-19 has not dampened the appetite of European banks for machine learning and data science, but may in the short term have limited their artificial-intelligence investment capacity.

By: Julia Anderson, David Bholat, Mohammed Gharbawi and Oliver Thew Topic: Finance & Financial Regulation Date: April 15, 2021
Read article More on this topic More by this author
 

Opinion

It’s time for a green social contract

The green transformation will have far-reaching socio-economic implications. Action is needed to ensure domestic and international social equity and fairness.

By: Simone Tagliapietra Topic: Energy & Climate Date: April 12, 2021
Read article Download PDF More by this author
 

Working Paper

The unequal inequality impact of the COVID-19 pandemic

Less-educated workers have suffered most from job losses in the COVID-19 pandemic, and it is quite likely there was a significant increase in European Union income inequality in 2020.

By: Zsolt Darvas Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance, Global Economics & Governance Date: March 30, 2021
Read article More on this topic More by this author
 

Opinion

Financial literacy and the fearless woman

Many gender gaps persist, but an important one that puts women in a very disadvantageous position is the gap in financial literacy.

By: Maria Demertzis Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: March 30, 2021
Load more posts