The Demography of Wealth Inequality: Marriage, Fertility, and Black-White Differences in Wealth

Vida Maralani, Yale University
Berkay Ozcan, Yale University

Differences in wealth holdings between white and black Americans are staggering. Research has shown that many factors influence wealth accumulation but the existing literature has not considered a comprehensive set of demographic mechanisms or adopted a life course perspective in examining black/white differences in wealth. We describe how differences in marriage timing, marriage duration, fertility timing and levels, and the sequencing of fertility and marriage predict wealth accumulation differentially for white and black Americans. We also show how these relationships have changed across birth cohorts. Finally, we use transition matrices to predict the likelihood of moving to a higher or lower quintile in the wealth distribution from early adulthood to prime age conditional on income and background factors. We then control for the timing and sequence of marriage and fertility to see how much these demographic factors explain wealth transitions over the life course for black and white Americans.

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Presented in Session 113: Racial and Ethnic Inequality