Richer Kids Have Different Priorities

On NPR, Quoctrung Bui asked, Who Had Richer Parents, Doctors Or Artists?:

A few weeks ago, we were sitting around the office arguing over this simple question: Who had richer parents, journalists or people working in finance? Doctors or artists? More generally: What’s the link between household income during childhood and job choice during adulthood?… A government survey has tracked more than 12,000 people for decades. It allowed us to look at the same group of people in 1979 and 2010 — from a time when most were teenagers to the time when they were middle-aged and, for the most part, gainfully employed.


Overall, richer parents tend to have kids that choose wealthier occupations.  But there are some big differences.  It turns out that artists had richer parents than doctors!  That is probably because rich parents are more likely to give advice that encourage artists more than parents below the median income.  For example, British mogul Richard Branson’s top ten tips for success in life include:

1. Follow your dreams…

4. Have fun…

7. Spend time with your family…

10. Do what you love and have a sofa in the kitchen

These are all great things, but it is easier for a rich man like Branson to have these priorities and give this kind of advice.  His children can afford to “Do what you love and have a sofa in the kitchen.”  The children of fishermen, food-preparers, and janitors probably can’t.  They may have to work just to make ends meet.  And we need menial food-preparers, and janitors (especially someone like Branson probably employs a lot of food preparers and janitors), but not as many people follow their dream into those occupations compared with artists and musicians.  The economy does not demand as much work from artists and musicians compared with police and doctors (at least relative to the supply).  So some occupations create much more upward mobility than others:


The most universally applicable advice that Branson gives is his second tip.  It is something that everyone can do regardless of whether their parents were rich or what occupation they do:

2. Make a positive difference and do some good.

That is a good way to make your life meaningful… even if you can’t afford a kitchen large enough for a sofa.

Posted in Inequality, Labor

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 92 other subscribers
Blog Archive