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How can we explain the gender wealth gap in France?

Collection : Documents de travail

191, 2013, 53 pages

  1. Background and literature review
  2. Data used
  3. Methodology
  4. On average, the gender wealth gap cannot be solely explained by differences in observed characteristics
One can find an extensive literature analyzing the gender wage gap. In contrast, wealth inequalities remains relatively unexplored. However, wealth is an important indicator of economic well-being, whether one focuses on the inequalities within the population as a whole or within a specific household. Using data from the 2003-2004 and 2009-2010 French Household Wealth surveys, we find that the gross wealth of men is roughly 15% higher than that of women. The gap is noticeably larger for financial assets (roughly 37%) than for real estate (4% for primary residence in 2009). However, an OLS regression shows that, all other things being equal, women’s wealth is more important. In order to better highlight the factors that explain this wealth gap, we make use of the semi-parametric decomposition method developed by DiNardo, Fortin and Lemieux (1996). We thus decompose the gaps not only at the average (as one might do with the Oaxaca and Blinder method) but also at other points of the wealth distribution. This is important because this distribution is asymmetric. We show that the gender wealth gap is predominantly explained by the differences in the distribution of individual characteristics (especially those related to the labour market - income, status and experience). However, the gap is reduced by the better returns on women’s characteristics (which corresponds to the unexplained share of the decomposition). In other words, women derive more wealth from their characteristics than men do.

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