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Death, deeds, and descendants : inheritance in modern America /
Remi Clignet.
imprint
New York : A. de Gruyter, c1992.
description
xi, 236 p. ; 24 cm.
ISBN
0202303985 (alk. paper)
format(s)
Book
Holdings
More Details
imprint
New York : A. de Gruyter, c1992.
isbn
0202303985 (alk. paper)
catalogue key
612675
 
Includes bibliographical references (p. 221-231) and index.
A Look Inside
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Choice on 1992-10:
Clignet's sophisticated, eclectic, compact study of inheritance takes a "European" orientation to "positivistic" research, challenging the American research "fetish," allegedly misplaced, for representativeness and unexamined cultural assumptions. His refined statistics transcend percentages in the more readable, comparable C. Shammas, M. Salmon, and M. Dahlin's Inheritance in America from Colonial Times to the Present (1987) and M. Sussman et al.'s Family Inheritance (CH, Apr'71). Clignet claims sample improvement by using "national" (but perhaps narrowly focused) IRS records from 1920 and 1944, evoking actual, self-generated testator behavior that undermines survey responses distorted by misrepresentation or conventionality. He seeks "to identify the most significant sources of variations," as to how gender, ethnicity, age, and matrimonial status of heirs influence generational bonds or testator liberty versus equality-equity. The abstract style suggests a readership of mature senior undergraduates, graduates, attorneys, economists, and other social scientists. A. P. Bober; Southern Connecticut State University
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This item was reviewed in:
Choice, October 1992
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Summaries
Main Description
Clignet's analysis of inheritance patterns in modern America is the fi rst sustained treatment of the subject by a sociologist. Clignet shows that even today inheritance serves to perpetuate both familial wealth and familial relations. He examines what leads decedents to chose particular legal instruments (wills, trusts, insurance policies, gifts inter vivos ) and how, in turn, the instrument chosen helps explain the extent and the form of inequalities in bequests, of a result of the gender or matrimonial status of the beneficiaries. The author's major is to identify and explain the most signifi cant sources of variations in the amount and the direction of transfers of wealth after death in the United States. He uses two kinds of primary data: estate tax returns fi led by a sample of male and female benefi ciaries to estates in 1920 and 1944, representing two successive generations of estate transfers, and publicly recorded legal instruments such as wills and trusts. In addition, Clignet draws widely on secondary sources in the fi elds of anthropology, economics, and history. His fi ndings reflect substantive and methodological concerns. Th e analysis underlines the need to rethink the sociology of generational bonds, as it is informed by age and gender. Death, Deeds, and Descendants underscores the variety of forms of inequality that bequests take and highlights the complexity of interrelations between the cultures of the decedents'nationalities and issues like occupation and gender. Inheritance is viewed as a way of illuminating the subtle tensions between continuity and change in American society. This book is an important contribution to the study of the relationship between sociology of the family and sociology of social stratification.
Main Description
Clignet's analysis of inheritance patterns in modern Americais the fi rst sustained treatment of the subject by a sociologist. Clignet shows that even todayinheritance serves to perpetuate both familial wealth and familial relations. He examines whatleads decedents to chose particular legal instruments (wills, trusts, insurance policies, giftsinter vivos) and how, in turn, the instrument chosen helpsexplain the extent and the form of inequalities in bequests, of a result of the gender ormatrimonial status of the beneficiaries. Theauthor's major is to identify and explain the most signifi cant sources ofvariations in the amount and the direction of transfers of wealth after death in the UnitedStates. He uses two kinds of primary data: estate tax returns fi led by a sample of male andfemale benefi ciaries to estates in 1920 and 1944, representing two successive generations ofestate transfers, and publicly recorded legal instruments such as wills and trusts. In addition,Clignet draws widely on secondary sources in the fi elds of anthropology, economics, andhistory. His fi ndings reflect substantive and methodological concerns. Th e analysis underlinesthe need to rethink the sociology of generational bonds, as it is informed by age andgender. Death, Deeds, andDescendants underscores the variety of forms of inequality that bequests takeand highlights the complexity of interrelations between the cultures of thedecedents'nationalities and issues like occupation and gender. Inheritance isviewed as a way of illuminating the subtle tensions between continuity and change in Americansociety. This book is an important contribution to the study of the relationship betweensociology of the family and sociology of social stratifi cation.
Table of Contents
Preface
Challenges of a Study of American Inheritancep. 1
Liberty and Equality in Inheritance: The Views of the French Revolution Modelp. 10
The American Historical Experience of Inheritancep. 13
Romantic Motives versus Rational Efficiencyp. 15
Property and Inheritancep. 20
The Outline of the Bookp. 25
Inheritance and Reproductionp. 29
Reproduction: The Historical Background of the Termp. 30
Inheritance and Reproduction: The Challengep. 32
The Conscious or Unconscious Nature of Reproductionp. 33
The Three Components of Reproduction: What Endures?p. 35
The Specificity of Reproduction in American Society: The Evidencep. 41
Determinants of Reproductionp. 44
The Limits of the Notion of Reproductionp. 53
Summary and Conclusionsp. 57
The Burden of Proof in the Study of Heirshipp. 59
The Representativeness of Samplesp. 60
The Choice of a Sample of Estate Tax Returnsp. 63
The Overall Demographic and Socioeconomic Profile of the Samplep. 71
The Validity of the Datap. 75
Conclusionsp. 79
On the Variety of American Wealthp. 81
The Relevance of the Theory of Segmented Labor Marketsp. 81
On Patterns of Capital Formationp. 83
On the Distinct Forms of American Wealthp. 90
The Variability in the Composition of Estates in 1920 and 1944p. 99
The Composition of the Estate: An Overall Picturep. 102
The Diversity of the Composition of Estatesp. 104
Conclusionsp. 119
The Materialist Logic of Wealth Accumulationp. 119
Testacy and the Limits of Free Willsp. 123
Death and Timep. 124
What Is Known about Testacy in the United Statesp. 126
The Role of Testacy in 1920 and 1944p. 133
Joint Propertyp. 134
The Role of Gifts Inter Vivosp. 135
The Incidence of Willsp. 137
Time Interval between Testacy and Deathp. 140
The Incidence of Trustsp. 142
Testacy and the Control of Timep. 143
Instruments of Transfers as Instruments of Ordering Things and Peoplep. 144
Conclusionsp. 153
Bequests and Inequality between and within Familiesp. 155
The Testators' Dilemmasp. 156
The Evidencep. 165
Determinants of Inequalityp. 169
An Assessment of Inequalities among the 1920 and 1944 Decedentsp. 170
The Variety of Forms of Inequalityp. 177
Conclusionsp. 186
Inheritance of Yesterday, Inheritance of Todayp. 189
Inheritance and Reproduction: The Overall Viewp. 191
Mechanical and Interpretive Forms of Inheritancep. 193
The Relativity of the Resultsp. 203
Policy Implicationsp. 206
Notesp. 209
Referencesp. 221
Indexp. 232
Table of Contents provided by Blackwell. All Rights Reserved.

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