SWRI Receives Grant to Broaden Study of Wealth

By Patricia Delaney
Director of Media Relations

A new study exploring the spiritual as well as the material factors that influence how the wealthy accumulate, view and use their money is in the works for the Boston College Social Welfare Research Institute.

Supported by a multi-year grant from the T.B. Murphy Foundation Charitable Trust, with first-year funding of $100,000, "The Material and Spiritual Dynamics of Wealth: Dilemmas and Decisions Surrounding the Accumulation and Distribution of Financial Resources" will enable the institute to continue its focus on what SWRI Director Prof. Paul Schervish (Sociology) terms "the changing spiritual terrain" in an age of increasing affluence.

"This study presents us with an opportunity to learn more about the decision-making processes of wealth holders," said Schervish, considered one of the nationís leading authorities on the wealthy. Such knowledge, he says, will enable him and SWRI Associate Director John Havens to better develop their model of wealth accumulation and distribution, and ultimately help in the development of strategies that can encourage wise financial decision-making by the wealthy.

The focus of this study is particularly significant in light of the dramatic growth of wealth in the United States. Last October, Schervish and Havens drew national attention for their report indicating that unprecedented sums of wealth  an estimated $41 trillion to $136 trillion  will be transferred from all adults alive today to heirs and other recipients by 2052.

This forecast, a marked increase over previous estimates, pointed to the dawn of an era characterized by the existence of more wealth holders than at any time in history. The report also suggested the potential for a "golden age" of charitable giving, predicting specifically that charitable bequests over the same period would range from $6 trillion to $25 trillion.

The new grant represents the 15th consecutive year that Thomas B. Murphy í50 has funded SWRI research, noted Schervish.

"Not only has Tom Murphy initiated and supported our research," said Schervish, "but he makes intellectual contributions as well, from philosophical reflections to technical knowledge about financial decision-making."

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