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Justifying inherited wealth: between ‘the bank of mum and dad’ and the meritocratic ideal

Moor, Liz and Friedman, Sam (2021) Justifying inherited wealth: between ‘the bank of mum and dad’ and the meritocratic ideal. Economy and Society, 50 (4). 618 - 642. ISSN 0308-5147

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Identification Number: 10.1080/03085147.2021.1932353


How do people reconcile belief in meritocracy with the receipt of unearned economic gifts? Drawing on interviews with first time homeowners who had bought property with familial gifts or inheritances, we find that many downplay the intergenerational privilege associated with gifting by reporting extended family histories of working-class struggle, upward social mobility and meritocratic striving. Interviewees also draw boundaries between their own wealth and the less legitimate wealth of others, or dispute the significance of gifting compared to other inequalities. We further argue that gifting is a site where two competing logics, the ‘domestic’ and family-orientated and the ‘civic’ and meritocratic, collide. While these competing principles appear to be in conflict, we detail how many labour discursively to bring them into alignment. Here interviewees deploy a humble ‘intergenerational self’ to recast familial gifts as evidence of multigenerational meritocratic success. Yet, while some successfully reconcile these conflicting ‘orders of worth’, for others the tension remains unresolved.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2021 The Authors
Divisions: Sociology
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HC Economic History and Conditions
H Social Sciences > HQ The family. Marriage. Woman
Date Deposited: 23 Mar 2022 15:36
Last Modified: 03 Dec 2023 23:06

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