The gender of capital

The Gender of Capital: How Families Perpetuate Wealth Inequality, La Découverte, 2020 [in French]. Co-authored with Sibylle Gollac

Why do women accumulate less wealth than men? Why do marital separations impoverish women while they do not prevent men from becoming wealthy? This groundbreaking work approaches the institution of family from a materialist point of view, breaking with the dominant theory of modern, economically disinterested family relations. It takes seriously the economists, in the wake of Thomas Piketty, who observe a return to property inequality, based on the legacy of capitalism in the twenty-first century. It reconsiders the effectivity of legal changes that profess formal equality between men and women while condoning inequality in practice.

Drawing on research spanning twenty years, the authors analyze what they call family wealth arrangements. They break with the common understanding of the family as an emotional haven of peace in a brutal capitalist world. Spouses and partners, brothers and sisters, fathers and mothers do not play the same part in family strategies of social reproduction, nor do they reap the same profits from them. In reality, the family is an economic institution that produces, circulates, controls and evaluates wealth. The meaning of this economic institution is revealed, in particular, in moments of marital breakdown and inheritance.

From the single mothers of the French “Yellow Vest” movement to the divorce of Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos, from the legacy of family businesses to the estate of the Trump family, the mechanisms of control and distribution of capital vary according to social class, yet always result in the disposession of women. Capital is gendered. This book describes how class society is perpetuated through the masculine appropriation of capital.

Reviews of the book:

Plenty of reviews in French

March 29, 2021, “A French Touch in the Sociology of Wealth“, by Nicolas Duvoux, Books and Ideas

March, 26, 2021, “How Families Reproduce the Inequalities of Capitalism“, by Joan Scott, European Journal of Sociology, 61, 3, 2021, pp. 437-439

February, 14, 2021, “Pride and Prejudice“, Newsletter Les Glorieuses Economics, about the gender wealth gap by Barbara Wojazer

December, 1, 2020, in Population, by Mathieu Trachman [in English]

September, 1, 2020, “Mechanismen männlicher Macht“, by Julia Spohr in Soziopolis [in German]

July, 24, 2020, Shanghai Review of Books by Nan Nan [in Chinese]

Some papers in English about this research:

2021, “Why do Women Accumulate Less Wealth than Men”, in Marlène Benquet and Théo Bourgeron (dir.), Accumulating Capital, Routledge [avec Sibylle Gollac], pp. 224-234.

2019, « Reversed Accounting: Legal Professionals, Families and the Gender Wealth Gap in France », Socio-Economic Review (DOI: 10.1093/ser/mwz036).

review by Dace Sulmane in the bulletin of the Supreme Court of Latvia, dec. 2019, n°19, pp. 118-120

2018, “Is Social Network Analysis Useful for Studying the Family Economy”, Economic Sociology_the european electronic newsletter,vol 19, n°3, p. 4-10 [avec Sibylle Gollac].

Talks about this research:

September, 16, 2021,  “The gender of capital. How families perpetuate wealth inequality” – Institutt for sosiologi og samfunnsgeografi (ISS) (

March, 5, 2021, webminar “Economic inequality: from the gender pay gap to the gender wealth gap” with the president of the Korean Women Workers Association (KWWA), BAE Jinkyung, the women’s studies professor, KIM Eunshil and the sociologist LEE Joohee, at the French Embassy in South Korea.

December, 2, 2020, “The Gender of Capital”, presentation of the book at the ENSAE-CREST sociology ans economics joint seminar, online.

October, 9, 2020, “The Gender of Capital”, presentation of the book at the MaxPo/OSC/PRESAGE hybrid seminar, discussion by Hélène Périvier, Science Po Paris.

October, 1, 2020, Keynote talk “Investigating Gender Wealth Inequality in the Family”, ECSR Network Workshop: Understanding Gender in Wealth Inequaliy, Humbolt Universität zu Berlin and London School of Economics, online.

November, 1, 2017, “Gender Wealth Inequality in French Families”, talk at the Center for Women’s and Gender Studies, the Rapoport Center for Human Rights and Justice, University of Texas at Austin, USA.

March, 27, 2017, “The Wealth of Families”, workshop of the Center for the Study of Social Organization (CSSO), coord : Viviana Zelizer, Princeton University, New Jersey, USA.

March, 27, 2017, “Doing Wealth Inequality in the Family”, Center for the Study of Social Organization’s Colloquium, Princeton University, New Jersey, USA.

March, 20, 2017, “Doing Wealth Inequality in the Family”, talk at the School of Social Science, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, New Jersey, USA.

April, 21, 2016, “The Patrimonial Government of Families: How Family Justice Contributes to Wealth Inequality in France”, Inequality: The Wealth–Credit–Housing Nexus and Its Political Consequences, Joint Workshop organized by Jens Beckert, Olivier Godechot and Tod Van Gunter, Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies and MaxPo, Sciences Po, Paris.