The gender wealth gap in France: deciphering the influence of factors

Carole Bonnet, Institut National d'Études Démographiques (INED)
Benoît Rapoport, Paris I University
Alice Keogh, DREES

There exists an extensive literature analyzing the gender wage gap. More recently, many studies have sought to examine the gender pension gap. On the other hand, wealth inequalities are still a relatively unexplored topic (Deere & Doss, 2006), mainly due to lack of adequate data. Unlike income, wealth is often described at the household level, thereby leading to a focus on the distribution across, as opposed to within, households. Nevertheless, wealth is a central aspect of individual wellbeing, and its distribution between genders a relevant topic. Assessing the wealth allotment within couples could contribute to the literature on the intra-household allocation of resources and its influence on bargaining power. Here, we investigate the question of a gender wealth gap in France, relying on adequate data. The 2003 and 2009 French wealth surveys render feasible the task of precisely identifying who owns what within the household (for housing and financial assets). The gross wealth of men is 15% higher than that of women; the gap is noticeably larger for financial assets (roughly 37%) than for main residence (4% to 8%). The results are similar in both surveys. To better identify the contributions of specific factors (demographic, economic…) to the overall wealth gap, we use the semi-parametric decomposition method by DiNardo,Fortin&Lemieux (1996) [aka DFL decomposition]. We show that the gender wealth gap is predominantly explained by the existing differences in the distribution of observed characteristics, in particular those linked to the labour market. Emphasis should be placed, however, on the unexplained part, which is high and negative. This means that the gap ought to be even higher given the observed characteristics: it is reduced by the better "remuneration" that women are awarded for their characteristics. Indeed, women derive more wealth from their characteristics than do men

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Presented in Session 97: Family and gender issues

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