Recent trends in the size and the distribution of inherited wealth in the UK

Publication type

Journal Article


Publication date

June 15, 2015


In this paper, we use HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) estate statistics and micro data from four UK household surveys to examine changes in the size, the composition and the distribution of inherited wealth in the UK over the period 1985−2010. Our findings indicate that the period under examination is characterised by a substantial increase in the flow of inheritance. This increase, which was particularly marked in the early 2000s, was mainly driven by an increase in housing inheritance, which in turn reflected the rise in house prices and, to a lesser extent, the increase in the proportion of inheritances that included housing assets. The distribution of inheritance amongst recipients became more unequal over this period. However, the inequality-increasing effect from the greater dispersion in the distribution of inheritance was counterbalanced by the increase in the percentage of the population who received an inheritance, resulting in a small decrease in the inequality of inheritance for the population overall. Analysis of the distribution of inheritance by socio-economic status suggests a positive association between inheritance and socio-economic status, with some evidence suggesting that this association might have strengthened over time. Overall, however, the value of inheritance for most people is rather small and the differences across groups rather moderate.

Published in

Fiscal Studies

Volume and page numbers

Volume: 36 , p.181 -213





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