Back to all papers

Current Academic Prize

Intergenerational Justice Prize 2020

Write an essay on: 

“Intergenerational Wealth Transfers through Inheritance and Gifts”

Deadline: 1 JULY 2020


The Stuttgart-based Foundation for the Rights of Future Generations (FRFG) and the London-based Intergenerational Foundation (IF) jointly award the biennial Intergenerational Justice Prize, endowed with EUR 10,000 (ten thousand euros) in total prize-money, to essay-writers who address political and demographic issues pertaining to the field of intergenerational justice. The prize was initiated and is funded by the Apfelbaum Foundation.

Aim of the competition

Through the prize, the FRFG and IF seek to promote discussion about intergenerational justice in society, and, by providing a scholarly basis to the debate, establish new perspectives for decision-makers. The invitation to enter the competition is extended especially to young academics from all disciplines.

For the 2020 prize, the FRFG and IF call for papers on the following topic:

“Intergenerational Wealth Transfers through Inheritance and Gifts”


The Intergenerational Justice Prize is endowed with EUR 10,000. The prize money will be distributed proportionally among the best submissions, which can be more or less than the top three submissions. Winning submissions will be considered for publication by the editorial team of the Intergenerational Justice Review (IGJR; for the summer issue 2021.

Closing date for prize submissions: 1 July 2020


  • Researchers from all fields of social science, especially young researchers (students, graduates, post-docs). There is no age limit. Collaborative submissions are also welcome.


  • can be submitted in either English or German
  • should be 5,000 to 8,000 words in length (excluding figures, tables and bibliography)

For full entry requirements (details of required formatting, addresses for submissions etc, and an official entry form) email Antony Mason at [email protected] 

Topic abstract

Wealth transfers across generations combine justice between past, present and future generations (intergenerational justice) with justice within the present generation (intragenerational justice).

For questions of intergenerational justice, with inheritance and legacies it is not the transfers between deceased persons and the survivors of the same family generation (widow, siblings) that are relevant, but between deceased persons and the next generation(s), i.e. the children or grandchildren. A major reason for the increasing intragenerational inequality in a society is the accumulation of wealth within families.

When someone dies, there is an opportunity to mitigate this effect. The essential instrument for this is an inheritance tax. To varying degrees, inheritance tax deprives the testator of the opportunity to pass on their assets to their direct descendants. Instead, the state distributes it to all citizens.

In order to counteract a possible avoidance of inheritance tax through donations before death, the state can levy a gift tax. Both types of tax are, of course, politically highly controversial.

Inheritance (and gifting) only arises as a “philosophical problem” when property rights are individualised. On the one hand, there is the view that the acceptance of private property implies that it should also be allowed in family relationships: wealth may accumulate along family lines, instead of being redistributed to society as a whole at every change of generation. Conversely, the birth lottery (the question of being born into a poor or rich family) should not affect the life chances of the youngest generation. According to this latter view, the right to inheritance should be rejected because it enables the heirs to have an unearned and effortless income and reduces the relative opportunities of the familially and financially underprivileged.

To date, no liberal-democratic constitutional state has completely eliminated this effect. Some countries, including Switzerland and Sweden, do not levy taxes on inherited property at all. One reason for this is the impact of inheritance tax on family businesses. A high inheritance tax on all business assets would lead to the expropriation or forced sale of businesses if the previous owner dies. A further reason consists in the difficulty of monetising the wealth of real estates. These values quickly exceed possible allowances, with the result that the children may no longer be able to live in their parents’ house.

Undoubtedly, intergenerational transfers of wealth by inheritance and gifts (and related issues of inheritance and gift tax) are a complex issue that has been the subject of many political and philosophical discussions. In this Call for Papers we invite contributions that consider and analyse the topic from various perspectives of intergenerational justice.


The Intergenerational Justice Prize 2020 aims to illuminate and analyse the role of intergenerational wealth transfers for intergenerational justice. Entries to the competition could approach the topic through a broad range of questions, including:

  • Is it legitimate for wealth to remain within families, generation after generation? Should the children of the deceased person be able to inherit all his or her wealth; or should the wealth be taxed by the state, for greater redistribution? Which philosophical arguments speak in favour of the dynastic approach, which ones support the societal approach?
  • To what extent do inheritance (and gift) tax systems differ in terms of tax rates and allowances according to degree of kinship in OECD countries or beyond? Are there fluctuations over time? How are business assets handled? How much money do these taxes generate for the tax authorities? What percentage of the population is liable to these taxes?
  • What undesirable and negative economic side effects can be observed in the various tax systems? Do inheritance and gift taxes have an influence on financial planning and affect behaviour?
  • How (un)popular are (high) inheritance and gift taxes among voters? Can this topic be used to win elections? Are there different opinions depending on age/generation?
  • Do the attitudes towards inheritance taxation differ in different countries and between different social groups? Are there connections between the type of political system, political culture and/or socio-demographic composition and development of society on the one hand and the existence and level of inheritance tax on the other?
  • How does inheritance tax relate to the welfare state? Does a higher inheritance tax empirically actually lead to less inequality?
  • Which relevant narratives and argumentation strategies can be identified in politics, business, society and the media, and where do they converge?
  • Inheritance taxation has developed very differently in the various legal systems, with considerable legal differences. What relevant rulings of constitutional courts exist on this subject? Is there a connection between the different legal cultures and the question of inheritance tax in an international comparison?
  • What role do questions of intergenerational justice play in the evolution of relevant laws and in relevant court rulings? What should an intergenerationally just inheritance tax law look like?
  • Each developed country has had key moments in the political and legal histories of the taxation of inherited wealth. What can historians tell us about this topic?

Note that these are non-binding suggestions: participants are strongly encouraged to come up with their own research puzzles. You may adapt the title according to your chosen subject, but the paper must in essence reflect the topic.

The submitted papers should be innovative, creative and with a focus on civil society issues, with practical applications. The FRFG and IF particularly appreciate participants trying to explain complex ideas in as simple and accessible terms as possible. Submitted research papers may employ all possible methodological approaches.