When asset prices outstrip wages in developed economies, the result is an “inheritance society”.
The economist Thomas Piketty points out in Capital in the Twenty-First Century that what we’re seeing is a reversion to the historical norm: in most epochs, the vast bulk of wealth comes from inheritance, not work.
Piketty says the exception was the postwar era: once the Great Depression and the second world war had decimated family wealth, there was little left to inherit.
Fifty years ago, a bank manager or teacher or lawyer was a big shot guaranteed a big house. Nowadays people in those jobs can find themselves living in their childhood bedrooms, struggling to please lesser-educated parents who control the pot of gold.
Simon Kuper FT 29 April 2021