There's some interesting news from Florence in Italy.
The richest families in Florence, Italy have had it good for a while—600 years to be precise.
That’s according to a recent study by two Italian economists, Guglielmo Barone and Sauro Mocetti, who after analyzing compared Florentine taxpayers way back in 1427 to those in 2011. Comparing the family wealth to those with the same surname today, they suggest the richest families in Florence 600 years ago remain the same now.
. . .
The study adds further evidence on how the rich remain rich. In England, researchers have previously demonstrated how a family’s status in England can persist for more than eight centuries, or more than 28 whole generations. It’s a trait shared by elite families in China, whose high status has persisted since the Mao years.
There's more at the link.
I found this interesting, for several reasons. One is a study done in South Africa during the 1980's, which I'm sure has been replicated around the world in various ways. A student at the Graduate School of Business at the University of the Witwatersrand (probably the premier business school in that country) wrote his thesis on the rise and fall of family-owned and -run companies. His conclusion was that for most of them, it took three generations from "gutter to gutter". The founder would start the business and build it; his son (usually the son, anyway) would continue it, and perhaps grow it a little more; but his grandson would run it into the ground, either through lack of business sense and ability, or by spending the "easy money" that the business represented to him. After all, he'd never had to work for it, so he took it for granted.
If that's the case nowadays, was it different in earlier generations? In the case of centuries-old noble families, with their traditional resistance to and distaste for "trade", how did they stop their younger offspring from squandering their inheritance? I've read of many cases where the latter happened, so how did those families that maintained their wealth succeed in doing so? Is there a strong ethos in such families that their patrimony is held in trust for their successors, and this ethos is handed down from generation to generation along with the money?
I'd love to know more about this subject, but I suspect it'll take years of research to get a handle on why this should be the case. Sounds like an interesting history book project for someone with the time and interest to take it on.