Stratification of society and the creation and perpetuation of inequality has long provided a focus for sociological investigation. There is consequently a substantial body of research in areas of social, cultural and human capital and how each contributes to and sustains inequality. There is however a relative dearth of research into the extent to which inequality is perpetuated by way of the transfer of wealth through the family and inheritance. This paper provides benchmark data on understanding the influence of family on estate distributions and the extent to which the intergenerational transfer of wealth gives rise to wealth holders acting to redistribute portions of their estates to charitable causes. The paper examines data from 2006 Victorian probate files with recorded asset values in excess of $1.4 million, to assess transmission decisions by wealthy individuals. The results indicate that the estates of wealthy Victorians are distributed overwhelmingly to direct family members.
Proceedings of 'Public sociologies: lessons and trans-Tasman comparisons', the 2007 Annual Conference of The Australian Sociological Association (TASA), Auckland, New Zealand, 04-07 December 2007 / B. Curtis, S. Matthewman and T. McIntosh (eds.)