Class and Wealth in Five European Countries

Class and Wealth in Five European Countries

Sociological Lessons from the Household Financial and Consumption Survey
Nicolas Duvoux et Adrien Papuchon, OSC Scientific Seminar, 2nd April 2021
  • Image Hyejin Kang (via Shutterstock)Image Hyejin Kang (via Shutterstock)

OSC Scientific Seminar 2020-2021

Friday, 2nd April 2021, 11:30 am / 1 pm (Zoom video conference)

Class and Wealth in Five European Countries
Sociological Lessons from the Household Financial and Consumption Survey
(European Central Bank, 2014)

Nicolas Duvoux

Professor, Paris 8 University, CRESPPA-LabTop

Adrien Papuchon

Head, Pôle Études sur la redistribution, Direction de la Recherche, des Études, de l’Évaluation et de la Statistique (Ministère des Solidarités et de la Santé)
Bureau Redistribution et évaluation

Recent sociological researches tend to move beyond the divide between economy and sociology in the study of socioeconomic inequality. They focus primarily on the relationship of social class with work-related income. Yet it has been shown that wealth, as compared to income, was the decisive feature of contemporary inequality and that wealth and income increasingly tend to be captured by the same households. To bridge the gap between the two disciplines and provide a comprehensive understanding of socioeconomic inequality, this article develops an integrated analysis of wealth and income distribution among occupational groups at different ages in five major European countries. We use the Household Financial and Consumption Survey (2014 wave) of the European Central Bank network.
Applying the wealth-to-income ratio at the group level, we provide answers to key questions such as: which classes do or do not belong to the patrimonial middle class? For which classes does wealth constitute a buffer against economic shocks and for which ones does it not? Firstly, we inductively elaborate class clusters based on occupational groups’ (relative) wealth (to-income flows) accumulation levels. Secondly, we make cross-country comparison, which leads to decompose wealth in housing and non-housing (non-housing main residence components especially). We estimate the life cycle patterns in relative wealth accumulation vis-à-vis income by class. Finally, we show that inheritance expectations coincide with socioeconomic hierarchy. This leads us to conclude theoretically that it is relevant to articulate wealth and income and occupations to study class on the one hand and objective and subjective measures of inequality on the other hand. This last move highlights the importance of the criteria of insecurity to capture contemporary inequalities.

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