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 was the Director of Bruegel. Over his career, he has contributed to research on European political economy and governance, fiscal, monetary and financial policy, climate change and geoeconomics. Under his leadership, Bruegel has been regularly ranked among the top global think tanks and has grown in influence and impact with a team of now almost 40 recognized scholars and around 65 total staff. Bruegel is also recognized for its outstanding transparency.

    A recognized thought leader and academic, he regularly testifies at the European Finance Ministers' ECOFIN meeting, the European Parliament, the German Parliament (Bundestag) and the French Parliament (Assemblée Nationale). 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 to the G20 high level independent panel on pandemic prevention, preparedness and response. He is also a professor (part-time) at the Solvay Brussels School of Université Libre de Bruxelles, where he teaches economics of European integration.

    He 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 was coordinating the research team on fiscal policy at Deutsche Bundesbank. He also worked as an external adviser to the International Monetary Fund.

    He holds a PhD in economics from the University of Bonn and studied in Bonn, Toulouse, Pittsburgh and Passau. He taught economics at the University of Pittsburgh and at Université libre de Bruxelles. He has published numerous papers in leading academic journals. His columns and policy work are published and cited in leading international media and policy outlets. Guntram is fluent in German, English, French and has good notions of Bulgarian and Spanish.

Related content

Working paper

Greeniums in sovereign bond markets

In this paper, we analyse whether green sovereign bonds are systematically priced differently to conventional sovereign bonds in the secondary markets

Monika De Ridder (Grzegorczyk) and Guntram B. Wolff