The generation of wealth: asset accumulation across and within cohorts

Document type
D'Arcy, Conor; Gardiner, Laura
Resolution Foundation
Date of publication
20 June 2017
Social Policy, Poverty Alleviation Welfare Benefits and Financial Inclusion, Older Adults, Children and Young People
Material type

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This report provides a comprehensive picture of wealth in Britain today.

Family wealth in 21st Century Britain is huge and growing, rising from £9.9 trillion before the financial crisis to over £11 trillion in the most recent data, more than six times our national income.

Significant increases have come from house price rises in the 1990s and 2000s, followed by major growth in private pension wealth more recently, as falling interest rates have increased the value of defined benefit entitlements.

Wealth is also key for those concerned with questions of intergenerational fairness, given emerging evidence of the asset accumulation challenges faced by younger cohorts, most visibly when it comes to home ownership.

Key findings:

  • Britain’s wealth is significant and has grown over time, with the inequality of this wealth falling in the long term but rising most recently. Wealth inequality is almost twice as high as the inequality of household incomes that is discussed much more frequently, and has been rising since the financial crisis.
  • Generational wealth progress has gone into reverse, with all cohorts born since 1955 falling behind predecessors at the same age. A typical adult in the second-youngest baby boomer cohort born 1956-60 had 7 per cent less wealth at age 55 than the cohort at the same age five years previously.  A typical adult born during 1981-85 had half as much total net wealth at age 30 as a typical adult at the same age five years before them.
  • As well as differences across cohorts, wealth gaps within cohorts are large and show signs of increasing. Overall wealth inequality within cohorts looks to have risen slightly for each successive cohort born during the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, compared to older cohorts at the same age. No such effect is apparent for those born before 1960.

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