- Many rich people like to pretend they are self-made, but inheritance plays a pivotal role for many; on average, the wealthiest 1 percent has inherited nearly $5 million in current dollars.
- As you might expect from seeing the graphs, wealthier families are much more likely to have inherited their wealth, and the more affluent a family is, the more they have inherited in general.
- Media coverage of the super-rich tends to highlight “self-made” icons, but in reality, inheritance plays an outsized role in determining wins and losses in our society.
“Rich people pretend to be self-made, but inheritance played a huge role for many.
Using the 2016 Survey of Consumer Finances, we broke down mean inheritance levels by wealth decile. It is important to emphasize here that these are self-reported inheritances. Survey participants are asked to think back throughout their life and identify all the wealth transfers they have received and when they received them. Naturally this is prone to misreporting and, one would think, especially prone to underreporting, as people tend to forget what gifts they have received over the years.
Nonetheless, as you would expect, wealthier families are much more likely to have inherited wealth. Additionally, the wealthier a family is, the more they have generally inherited.
For starters, here is the percent of families in each wealth decile who have received any inheritance.
With the exception of the first decile, the trend is: the higher up you are on the wealth ladder, the more likely you are to have inherited money. Fully 37.8 percent of the wealthiest 10 percent of families say they have inherited money…”
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