Factors driving wealth inequality in European countries

Client/Funding Institution

Austrian Chamber of Labour


The study analyses how microeconomic factors drive the inequality in household wealth across nine European countries applying the Shapley value approach to decomposition. The research draws on micro data from the Eurosystem Household Finance and Consumption Survey 2014. Disparity in inheritance and gifts obtained by households are found to have a considerable effect on wealth inequality that is on average stronger than the one of income differences and other factors. In Austria, Germany, France and Spain the contribution of real and financial assets received as bequests or inter-vivos transfers to wealth inequality attains more or almost 30%. However, also the distribution of household characteristics (age, education, size, number of adults and children in the household, marital status) within countries shapes the observed wealth dispersion. The study also provides an overview of different inheritance tax regimes in selected European countries and the United States. It finds that in the majority of countries the tax rate depends on the relationship between bequeather and inheritor as well as the value of the inherited assets. Due to an increase in private wealth and its concentration over time, the authors furthermore expect an increase in inheritance tax revenues in the future.


December 2016 - November 2017

wiiw team Leader

Sebastian Leitner

wiiw Staff

Veronika Janyrova, Stefan Jestl

External Publications

Factors driving wealth inequality in European countries, AK Working Paper No. 177, July 2018

Keywords: Inequality, Wealth Distribution, Decomposition Analysis, Inheritance, Inter vivos transfers, Income Distribution, Europe

Countries covered: Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, Poland, Portugal, Spain

Research Areas: Labour, Migration and Income Distribution