Wealth and the Rise of Wage Earners: From Professional Assets to Financial Resources, France 1820-1960

Jérôme Bourdieu , Paris School of Economics
Lionel Kesztenbaum, Institut National d'Études Démographiques (INED)
Gilles Postel-Vinay, Paris School of Economics
Akiko Suwa-Eisenmann, Paris School of Economics

This paper examines the structural change that occurred in France’s labor market with the rise of tenured wage work, at the expense of self-employment and its impact on wealth. We first characterize this evolution and bring some nuance to it. Then we look at wealth, not only its distribution but also at its composition. We show that assets held by households have evolved between 1820 and 1960 in parallel to the change in labor. Wage work frees from the need to hold professional assets (such as land or shops). However, because retirement benefits were in their infancy, one still needed to save for later years in the form of financial assets and housing.

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 Presented in Session 39. Human Capital, Wealth and Inter-Generational Transmission