TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

The Marital Wealth Gap

Erez Aloni (British Columbia), The Marital Wealth Gap, 93 Wash. L. Rev. ___ (2018):

Married couples are wealthier than people in all other family structures. The top 10% of wealth holders are, in great proportion, married. Even among the wealthiest households, married couples hold significantly more wealth than others. The Article identifies this phenomenon as the “Marital Wealth Gap,” and critiques the role of diverse legal mechanisms in creating and maintaining it. Marriage also contributes to the concentration of wealth because marriage patterns are increasingly assortative: wealth marries wealth. The law entrenches or even exacerbates these class-based marriage patterns by erecting structural barriers that hinder people from meeting across economic strata.

Table 1

How can the state restructure the law to alleviate the marital wealth gap? The Article proposes a fundamental shift in the way the state treats wealth and family status. It advances a theory grounded in transformative “recognition and redistribution” that decentralizes marriage’s monopoly on wealth-related benefits and simultaneously aims to reduce wealth concentration among the richest households. Principally, since marriage is the preserve of the well-off, the state should decouple wealth benefits from marriage. At the same time, it should combat the structures that enable wealth concentration among affluent married couples, thereby dismantling the architecture that supports the marital wealth gap.

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What percentage of all estates is represented by this small sample of about 3,000 decedents? Does that skew the results?

Posted by: Andy Patterson | Mar 21, 2018 7:11:48 AM

Let's solve this problem once and for all, making marriage a leveling device. The state needs to choose partners for everyone based on wealth. Rich shall marry poor, attractive shall marry unattractive, intelligent shall marry slow. Only then can we achieve utopia.

Posted by: AMTbuff | Mar 21, 2018 7:31:28 AM

For those of us who consider the decline in stability of society a result in the decline of stable nuclear families, why would we want ".. the state restructure the law to alleviate the marital wealth gap?" I think somebody just had a need to publish for tenure or assessment purposes. If wealth is a presumptive result of stable marriage, why wouldn't we encourage it?

Posted by: Tom N | Mar 21, 2018 8:53:56 AM

An interesting article. I would also like to see consideration of whether marriage creates wealth (not just the article's apparent focus on how wealth creates marriage).

Posted by: Michael Waggoner | Mar 21, 2018 2:04:19 PM

My wife and I have been married for almost 40 years. The financial benefit we have received for working hard at our marriage and avoiding divorce is unconscionable.

Posted by: Mike Petrik | Mar 22, 2018 4:13:28 AM

I believe our current 1st Couple have already put AMTbuff's suggestion into practice.

Posted by: leonard fuld | Mar 22, 2018 5:43:13 AM