Blog post

Wealth distribution in the eurozone

The eurosystem has worked for a number of years now on a very comprehensive survey, called Household Finance and Consumption Network (HFCN). Data will

Publishing date
25 August 2014

The eurosystem has worked for a number of years now on a very comprehensive survey, called Household Finance and Consumption Network (HFCN). Data will be published in soon.

The Bundesbank yesterday gave a press conference on some of the results of the German survey. The presentation by Heinz Herrmann and Ulf von Kalckreuth, the two researchers at the Bundesbank running the survey, provides a number of interesting insights. The most interesting but also controversial one will certainly be the distribution of wealth across countries of the euro area. For convenience, I copy paste the table from the presentation below.


A number of results stand out.

First, the average wealth in Germany is lower than in France, Spain and Austria. The German statistics, however, look different when excluding East Germany. Then, average wealth is slightly above France but still below Spain and Austria.

Second, the wealth distribution in Germany seems to be more unequal than the other countries considered. The median household, i.e. the household with an equal number of richer and lower households around, owns only a net property of 51k euros. This means only a quarter of the average net property. This contrasts with much richer median households in France and more than 3 times richer households in Spain and Italy.

Third, the low net property in Germany is correlated with the low home ownership in Germany. Only 44% of German households own apartments. Yet, it is shown that buying an apartment is a central factor for saving.

This leaves a number of important questions: Why apparently do high savings rates in Germany and the high macroeconomic saving not translate in high wealth? Is the high saving appropriate to allow German households to accumulate wealth to catch up with the South of Europe? Is the main reason for low household wealth the savings accumulation in corporations whose ownership is more concentrated? How much has wealth dropped in the years since the survey was first conducted due to the decline in the property markets in the South of Europe? The HFCN offers for a rich research agenda ahead.

About the authors

  • Guntram B. Wolff

    Guntram Wolff is a Senior fellow at Bruegel. He is also a Professor of Public Policy and Economics at the Willy Brandt School of Public Policy. From 2022-2024, he was the Director and CEO of the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP) and from 2013-22 the director of Bruegel. Over his career, he has contributed to research on European political economy, climate policy, geoeconomics, macroeconomics and foreign affairs. His work was published in academic journals such as Nature, Science, Research Policy, Energy Policy, Climate Policy, Journal of European Public Policy, Journal of Banking and Finance. His co-authored book “The macroeconomics of decarbonization” is published in Cambridge University Press.

    An experienced public adviser, he has been testifying twice a year since 2013 to the informal European finance ministers’ and central bank governors’ ECOFIN Council meeting on a large variety of topics. He also regularly testifies to the European Parliament, the Bundestag and speaks to corporate boards. In 2020, Business Insider ranked him one of the 28 most influential “power players” in Europe. From 2012-16, he was a member of the French prime minister’s Conseil d’Analyse Economique. In 2018, then IMF managing director Christine Lagarde appointed him to the external advisory group on surveillance to review the Fund’s priorities. In 2021, he was appointed member and co-director to the G20 High level independent panel on pandemic prevention, preparedness and response under the co-chairs Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Lawrence H. Summers and Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. From 2013-22, he was an advisor to the Mastercard Centre for Inclusive Growth. He is a member of the Bulgarian Council of Economic Analysis, the European Council on Foreign Affairs and  advisory board of Elcano.

    Guntram joined Bruegel from the European Commission, where he worked on the macroeconomics of the euro area and the reform of euro area governance. Prior to joining the Commission, he worked in the research department at the Bundesbank, which he joined after completing his PhD in economics at the University of Bonn. He also worked as an external adviser to the International Monetary Fund. He is fluent in German, English, and French. His work is regularly published and cited in leading media. 

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