Inherited Wealth over the Path of Development: Sweden, 1810–2016

Reprint No. 2020:45

Author(s): Henry Ohlsson, Jesper Roine and Daniel WaldenströmYear: 2020 Title: Journal of the European Economic Association Volume (No.): 18 (3) Pages: 1123–1157
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Preliminary version

We estimate the importance of inherited wealth in Sweden over the past 200 years. Inheritance is measured both as the annual inheritance flow divided by national income and as the share of inherited wealth in all private wealth. In the 19th century, Sweden differs from France and the United Kingdom in having much lower inheritance–income flows, but at the same time exhibiting equally large shares of inherited wealth in total wealth. This pattern is in line with Sweden at the time being a poor country with low domestic capital accumulation, but at the same time exhibiting high economic growth rates. In the 20th century the importance of inheritance in relation to national income fell, but since the 1990s it has increased rapidly, today reaching almost the same levels as a century ago. The share of inherited wealth in total wealth has also fallen over time, but remains relatively low due to a rapid accumulation of new wealth. We study potential determinants and explanations, pointing especially to Swedish welfare-state institutions, and in particular to the development of an extensive public occupational pension system contributing to keeping private inheritance low.

Ohlsson, Henry, Jesper Roine and Daniel Waldenström (2020), "Inherited Wealth over the Path of Development: Sweden, 1810–2016". Journal of the European Economic Association 18(3), 1123–1157.

Daniel Waldenström


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