Current Research

Personal wealth accumulation in couples

I’m interested in whether personal, economic wealth is unequally distributed within couples; and how these inequalities may emerge. Since 2017, I head a research group on personal wealth accumulation in couples. This project will answer the following overarching research question: What shapes the accumulation of and inequalities in personal wealth in couples? By answering this question, the project’s first aim is to understand how being in a couple affects personal wealth accumulation for women and men. Second, it aims to improve on the knowledge about the generation of economic inequalities within couples over time. Third, it aims to identify contextual conditions that moderate the within-couple accumulation of wealth. See here for more details.

Financial well-being and personal wealth

Economic wealth is often assumed to be a household-level resource which is pooled by spouses in married couples. Using comprehensive data on the individual wealth of both spouses in married couples from the German Socio-Economic Panel Study, I test this assumption. To this end, the associations between individuals’ wealth and their spouses’ wealth with individuals’ subjective financial well-being are examined. My results show that women’s financial well-being is equally associated with their own individual wealth and their spouses’ wealth in older birth cohorts. In younger birth cohorts, women’s financial well-being is more strongly associated with their own individual wealth than with their spouses’ wealth. For men from all birth cohorts, their own individual wealth is more strongly related to their financial well-being than is their spouses’ wealth. These findings suggest that wealth is not generally and fully pooled and that individual ownership matters within married couples in Germany. See here for a preprint and here for the article in the Journal of Marriage and Family.

Marriage and personal wealth

I examine the association between marriage and economic wealth of women and men with data from the German Socio-Economic Panel Study (2002, 2007, 2012). Going beyond previous research, which focused on household wealth, I examine personal wealth, which allows identifying gender disparities in the association between marriage and wealth. I find that both, women and men, experience substantial marriage wealth premiums not only in household but also in personal wealth. I do not find consistent evidence for gender disparities in these general marriage premiums. Additional analyses indicate, however, that women’s marriage premiums are substantially lower than men’s premiums in older cohorts and when only considering non-housing wealth. Overall, this study provides new evidence that women and men gain unequally in their wealth attainment through marriage. See here for a preprint and here for the article in Demography.

Parenthood and personal wealth

Using German data, we examine the association between parenthood and the growth of personal wealth of women and men over their life courses in joint work with Marita Jacob and Karsten Hank. We find that mothers‘ personal wealth growth rates are lower compared to childless women and compared to fathers. A considerable share of this association can be explained by discontinuous employment experiences of women in Germany, a context with a dominant male breadwinner model. The wealth accumulation of mothers is additionally depressed by early first births and non-marital births. For men, parenthood is not generally associated with wealth accumulation, but we identify variation in the association with regard to the timing of and marital status at first birth. These results reveal a substantial motherhood wealth penalty previously hidden in analyses of household-level wealth, thereby contributing to our understanding of gender inequalities in economic well-being over the life course. This paper has been published in the European Sociological Review.


Family background and wealth accumulation

I’m currently involved in research examining how families of origin influence the wealth accumulation of adult children.

Parental separation and adult children’s wealth

Together with Janeen Baxter, I investigate how parental separation during childhood is associated with adult children’s wealth. Using Australian data, we find a negative association. The negative association is limited to adult children who experienced parental divorce before age 15. The association of parental separation with adult children’s wealth changes little over children’s life courses. The most likely pathway through which parental separation influences adult children’s wealth is through the partnership and childbearing choices made by adult children who experienced parental separation. See here for the working paper.

Sibship size and wealth accumulation

This paper examines the association between sibship size and wealth in adulthood. The study draws on resource dilution theory and additionally discusses potentially wealth-enhancing consequences of having siblings. Data from the German Socio-Economic Panel Study (SOEP) are used to estimate multilevel regression models adjusted for parental wealth and other important confounders neglected in extant work. The main results show that siblings are not generally associated with less wealth, but large sibships are associated with less wealth compared to only children and individuals with one sibling. Parental wealth and birth order position do not moderate the association between sibship size and wealth. The findings suggests that fertility in the family of origin has a limited but systematic impact on wealth attainment and may contribute to population-level wealth inequalities independently from other socio-economic characteristics in families of origin such as parental wealth. This paper is currently under review.

Intergenerational transmission of homeownership

Also see my article „Intergenerational transmission of homeownership in Europe: Revisiting the socialisation hypothesis“ with Ruud Luijkx, in which we demonstrate that parental homeownership during childhood is positively associated with adult children’s homeownership. We argue that socialsiation in homeownership during childhood increases the chances of becoming and being a homeowner in later life.