Lives in the balance? Gender, age and assets in late-nineteenth-century England and Wales

Green, David R.; Owens, Alastair; Maltby, Josephine and Rutterford, Janette (2009). Lives in the balance? Gender, age and assets in late-nineteenth-century England and Wales. Continuity and Change, 24(2) pp. 307–335.



Studies of wealth-holding in nineteenth-century Britain focus either on establishing aggregate measures or on individual case studies. These do not allow for a comparative analysis of the way that the composition of wealth was influenced by age and gender. This article explores the importance of these factors using both a case-study approach and a more comprehensive analysis of wealth left at death for a sample of 1,444 individuals. By establishing the age at death for 1,274 of these individuals, together with evidence from a series of death duty records, it is possible to determine the composition of assets by age and gender. For both men and women, shares became more important over the life course. Real estate was more important for men of all ages compared to women, for whom safe investments in government securities assumed greater significance with age. These findings confirm that both age and gender influenced the amount and composition of wealth and demonstrate that these factors need to be taken into account in any model that seeks to make generalizations about the pattern of wealth-holding in the population at large. Emphasizing these demand-side factors provides a different perspective on the rise of Britain as a 'nation of investors'.

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