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Inheritance matters to Germans looking for a spouse

[FRANKFURT] Inheritance is more enticing than income when it comes to Germans and marriage.

Money that could pass down the family is what matters to Germans looking for a spouse, according to a paper published by the Bundesbank. In it, economist Junyi Zhu and Etienne Pasteau from the Paris School of Economics write that inheritance is about two and a half times more important than income in explaining marriage choices in Europe's largest economy.

To be sure, the preferences they uncovered are not necessarily developed consciously. Rather, what's being observed is a symptom of social stratification -- the grouping of people into different classes of society -- and the growing importance of inherited wealth for annual incomes in Germany. Which doesn't mean marriage comes down to financial interests.

"Such a cynical view of marriage would run counter to the prevailing view of partnership driven mainly by mutual affection," Zhu and Pasteau write. "Nevertheless, we cannot exclude a priori the possibility that individuals take this information into account in the matrimonial market."

After all, a big inheritance "can substantially raise the starting point for a couple's standard of living." And some people may simply have "strong dynastic preferences."

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The study finds the situation in Germany is very similar to France. That's despite the fact that aristocratic wealth in Germany has dwindled significantly since World War II and a big part of the country was under a communist regime in the second half of the last century. It's also irrespective of social mobility in Germany being higher than in France.

However, recent decades have seen a "resurgence of wealth inequality which may lead to a renewed importance of inherited wealth for mating choices," the researchers write.


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