The ambiguity of male primogeniture. Inheritance and the transmission of social status from generation to generation
Based on statistical and ethnographic data, this article examines intergenerational transmission inequalities according to sex and sibship birth order, beginning with an analysis of inheritance from one generation to another. Youngest siblings prove to be the favoured recipients of early financial transfers, while plans for social mobility are invested in eldest sons, which increases their income expectations and predestines them to receive the family property, albeit belatedly. Single children, whether male or female, receive both these different resources. Effectively, inequality in terms of inheritance reflects specific positions in social reproduction strategies, as revealed by the unequal educational and work achievements of boys and girls, and eldest and youngest siblings. An analysis of asset transfers from generation to generation thus reveals the differentiated treatment of children in the same sibship, including when it comes to the transmission of cultural capital above all. Despite changes in the role of inheritance in social stratification, that which can be transmitted to reproduce or improve social status remains a « rival » good, which is shared between brothers and sisters in a more or less equal fashion.
Keywords. INEQUALITY – BIRTH ORDER – GENDER – INHERITANCE – SOCIAL MOBILITY