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John Ziker Publishes Paper on ‘Intergenerational Transmissions of Wealth’

Portrait of John Ziker

John Ziker, professor and chair of the anthropology department, is the co-author on an article in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B published on July 15.

The article, “Differences between sons and daughters in the intergenerational transmission of wealth,” tackles the question of how privilege is transmitted across generations (a concern of economists) and considers sex-biased inheritance norms (a concern of anthropologists). This is the first cross-cultural investigation of how parent–offspring correlations in wealth vary by offspring sex. The paper examines 38 wealth measures from 15 populations ranging from hunter-gatherers to small-scale farmers. Results show no evidence of ubiquitous male bias across these populations. In addition, the study demonstrates how little the normative descriptors of kinship systems, such as inheritance rules, capture intergenerational correlations in wealth. Parent–son and parent–daughter wealth correlations are highly variable within and between societies.

This does not mean that sons and daughters are everywhere treated equally. Rather, many populations appear to show no sex-biased parental investment and, among those that do, they are just as likely to favor daughters as sons, despite social norms for gendered inheritance. Gender inequality is still pervasive and anthropologists will continue to study the differentials in income, education, and autonomy and shifts due to rapid industrialization.

This article is part of the theme issue, “The evolution of female-biased kinship in humans and other mammals.” The issue can be found here:

Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society has the prestige of being the world’s longest running science journal. Philosophical Transactions B publishes high quality theme issues on topics of current importance and general interest within the life sciences.