Économie et Statistique n° 417-418 - 2008Household Assets: Recent Developments
Self-Employment and Inheritance: the Weight of Inequality among Siblings
Sons, only children, and elder children are the categories that benefit most frequently from special investments by their parents, in both financial assets and informal human capital. While family assets do influence their decision to choose self-employment, it is less through the “turnkey transfer” of the family business than through a more diffuse economic support and via the positive message that parental wealth sends to young persons of working age who hesitate to strike out on their own. But family assets would be of little consequence without transfers of other kinds—i.e., of professional and managerial skills. Inequality of transfers between children of the self-employed are ambiguous. Those who take up the status—and in particular the family business—receive greater economic transfers. However, they can also feel captive in their role as continuators, especially when their parents have invested little in their educational achievement. While they are more likely to become business owners, it is not necessarily out of choice. This article combines an analysis of data from the 2003-2004 Household Assets Survey (Enquête Patrimoine) with the conclusions of ethnographic studies to examine the conditions in which parents transfer self-employment status. We explore not only the special advantages for business owners’ children who choose self-employment, but also the inequalities between them with respect to the decision to go into business.