I hesitate even to mention this study, because of all the nations on earth, America is the one nation that prides itself on giving anyone who comes here — legally, anyway– the chance to be whatever they want to be.
But according to University of Michigan sociologist Fabian Pfeffer, you actually can’t.
What determines whether you get somewhere in life is your parents’ wealth. Education matters, so does occupation. But what tips the balance is wealth. The house. The savings. The family assets.
And this is true not just in America, but in Germany and Sweden, the other two countries they studied.
Based on tracking 5,000 families over two generations, it turns out family wealth determines whether a kid lives near the best schools, and whether, if they fail, there’s a childhood bedroom to come back to — which gives a kid the confidence to try something riskier and potentially more rewarding.
People who don’t have that family backstop — tend to play it safe.
The study ALSO found that most government programs that try to give people an artificial boost up the ladder don’t work. Not even in socialist countries like Sweden.
In fact, what the researchers recommend, if a country is really serious about creating a land of opportunity, isn’t more social services, or more government checks, but more private assets. To quote a similar study from 30 years ago — “income feeds peoples’ stomachs, assets change their minds.” Or as I like to say, anybody can take a stumble. But if you have a little wealth stored up, at least you’ll fall on your assets. I’ll apologize for that later.
Dave Ross Commentary: