The value of men’s assets is generally higher than that of women, a gap that is much greater among couples than among singles and which increases even more the richer the couples are.
A study by researchers from the National Institute of Scientific Research (INRS) lifts the veil for the first time on this reality, Statistics Canada data relating to heritage being accumulated on the basis of the household, therefore without distinction between members of these households.
Data obtained by lead researcher Maude Pugliese and her team shows that men’s accumulated wealth is 1.4 times to 2.4 times higher than women’s.
“The gap between men and women is something we suspected,” says Mme Pugliese, who said she was not surprised because such studies in other countries show the same trend.
She specifies that the wealth gap cannot be attributed to the well-documented income gap between men and women, which is only responsible for a fraction of the differences between assets.
The impact of a birth
“One of the reasons why women are less able to accumulate wealth is because, when they have children, they are the ones who most often take more or less long breaks from work. So, not only will we often stop saving, we may even have to dip into our savings. It is women, in a couple context, who are particularly likely to work less or reduce their participation somewhat in the context of children. »
Interestingly, we learn in the study, titled The Gender Wealth Gap in Quebec (The gender wealth gap in Quebec), that the gap is almost non-existent between single men and women who have never been married and who do not have children. The gap appears when we talk about single people with children, it becomes more significant when women are in a relationship and reaches its peak in the richest couples.
Little or no difference among singles
Research also shows that the wealth of single people, men or women, is lower than that of people in a relationship, which is hardly surprising according to Maude Pugliese. “There are several reasons for this. Among other things, there are often age differences. Single people tend to be younger and have lower incomes. Then obviously, there is all the difficulty of saving which is greater when there are not two of us, to pool options. »
Then, she says, when two single people who have equivalent assets become a couple, “at the household level we have just multiplied the assets by two. In the long term, for individuals, it makes saving easier. For example, it’s easier when housing costs are shared. »
From there to saying that a single woman who decides to live with a partner will automatically see her value increase, but more slowly than that of her partner, there is a step that researchers do not take. Mme Pugliese emphasizes that the study has several limitations, including that of not extending over time: “These are not data that allowed us to follow, for example, a single person and to see over the course of their life, in couple or not, what happens to their assets. We have not observed people on their life course and we cannot say that it is the fact of forming a couple which will create gender gaps as such. When you get into a relationship, at 25, 30 years old, lots of other things happen. It is also that period of life, where we can receive inheritances or we can decide to go into business. »
Moreover, it is specified, part of the heritage will have been accumulated before a possible relationship. Also, there are intergenerational transfers, that is to say money bequeathed by parents. Because if there is nothing to indicate that women are at a disadvantage compared to their brothers when the time comes to inherit, there is also what is called “inter vivos transfers”, a curious expression designating parents who give money to their children while they are still alive. Here too, the Quebec data does not make it possible to assess a gap, but studies in Germany and Korea report a very significant gap.
But the gaps can only be explained by parenthood and the greater financial burden that it often imposes on women. The study concludes that part of the gap is based on the ownership of assets, particularly assets other than the main residence, notably income properties, a heritage asset recognized as being favored by the Quebec middle class.
We also note greater gaps in asset value between men and women living in a common-law union than within married couples, except among the richest. This finding is said to echo other studies showing that common-law couples are less likely to share, co-own or redistribute their assets, particularly when they are aware of the legal differences between marriage and cohabitation. . Other studies have demonstrated that in several cases, the choice of cohabitation is based precisely on the desire to have greater financial independence and the resulting individualization of wealth.
More wealth, more gap
But the biggest gap is found among couples — married or not — who are in the 99e percentile of the study or, in clear terms, the famous 1% of the richest. But, Maude Pugliese is careful to point out, “there is a downside: in the study, concretely, it is certain that our sample does not include the true 1% of the richest population. We know the great fortunes of Quebec. For us, this is the 1% of our sample. If we looked at the real 1% of Quebec, we can imagine that the differences would be even more impressive. »
“It’s really in these very well-off groups where we see that the people who have really, really big fortunes are mainly men,” reports the researcher. Why do the richest people have a greater gap, with men’s wealth being 2.4 times higher than women’s? Here again, a precise answer would require further studies, but the researcher raises a possibility: “One thing that we can suspect because it is something that is of great importance, especially in very large assets, is the businesses. We know that the transfer of ownership of a business is done more from father to son. There are studies on this. Entrepreneurship is a path that is less navigated by women for all kinds of reasons, but probably the whole question of caring for children has something to do with it. There are several elements that we would like to try to find around the transmission of assets, particularly when it comes to a family business. »
Separate love and money
Faced with such an implacable constant, what advice can we give to women to try to maintain a balance when entering into a relationship? “We need to talk about it openly. It is certain that, in a romantic context, it almost goes against our ideas, of what love is, to talk very directly about money. »
“It’s simply a matter of separating the two, of saying: it’s not because we’re in love that we don’t have a material life, especially when a child arrives because one has to take time off, reduce your participation in the labor market and your income. We must be prepared to ask ourselves how we redistribute our family income. How can I have part of that which, for example, contributes to my savings? »
And if it doesn’t seem simple, she points out that it’s often even worse: “More and more, these questions are becoming more complex because there are more and more blended families. » We can well imagine that these cases, which involve family ties outside the couple and parental ties multiplied by two or more, have no interest in being ignored, especially by women.