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Wealth As Control of the Future

Sat, August 6, 8:00 to 9:30am, LACC, Floor: Level 2, 404B


Wealth inequality has become a major focus of sociological research in recent years. This research has yielded breakthroughs in describing the present distribution of wealth holdings, the impacts that access to wealth has on life trajectories, and the strong connections between wealth in the present and events in the past. However, sociologists have yet to fully explore the relationship between wealth in the present and events in the future. Drawing on insights from financial accounting and asset pricing, this paper describes how expectations about future events are fundamental in determining the prices of assets and thus the present net worth of individuals. It then demonstrates how a “future-oriented” perspective on wealth can help resolve ongoing debates in the wealth literature, including the question of how to incorporate government social insurance programs when calculating personal net worth and the seeming puzzle of high levels of wealth inequality in otherwise egalitarian countries.