Childhood religious denomination and early adult asset accumulation

Book Section

Wealth inequality has become increasingly severe in recent years. Basic characteristics of the distribution of wealth are well established, but the processes that generate this inequality are unclear. Wealth, or net worth, is the value of a person's assets less their debts. Between the 1960s and the 1990s, total household wealth in 2000 dollars grew from $8 trillion to nearly $24 trillion (Keister 2000). Between 1989 and 1998, median household net worth increased more than 20 percent, and the number of billionaires in the Forbes 400 rose from 85 to 267 (Kennickell 2000). During that time, the proportion of wealth owned by the top 1 percent of families increased from about 33 percent to more than 38 percent, while the share owned by those in the lower 90 percent declined from 33 to 30 percent of the total (Wolff1998). The implications of this severe and growing inequality are apparent when the advantages of wealth ownership are considered. Wealth provides current use value (as in the ownership of a home), generates more wealth when it is invested, provides a buffer during financial emergencies, and can be passed to future generations. Moreover, wealth may increase political influence, educational and occupational opportunities, and social advantages for both current and future generations. Although wealth ownership is clearly concentrated, the processes that generate this inequality are only vaguely understood. © 2010 by Rutgers University Press. All rights reserved.

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Keister, LA

Published Date

  • December 1, 2010

Book Title

  • Religion, Families, and Health: Population-Based Research in the United States

Start / End Page

  • 164 - 185

International Standard Book Number 13 (ISBN-13)

  • 9780813547183

Citation Source

  • Scopus