Abstract

Inheritances have immense consequences on social stratification. On the one hand, they contribute to the reproduction of social inequality. On the other hand, they are also a direct cause of the increase of social differences. Inheritances favour individuals with a higher level of education and discriminate against those individuals who, in any case, have a much slighter chance of achieving higher social positions. As inheritance largely stems from parents and grandparents, a comparison between East Germans and West Germans still reflects the consequences of the differing regimes under which they formerly lived. The possibility of accumulating private wealth, which could then later be bequeathed, was very restricted in ‘socialist’ societies like the German Democratic Republic, in contrast to Western societies like the ‘old’ Federal Republic of Germany. The analyses prove that East Germans acquire much less property through inheritance than West Germans. In comparison, the differences between women and men are much smaller. The empirical analyses are based on a theoretical model of intergenerational solidarity.

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