September 25, 2022

If You Don’t Have Rich Parents, Forget About Being Successful?

out-of-workFor many people, America no longer seems like the land of unparalleled opportunities.  The mainstream press seems to be full of stories about people losing their jobs, college graduates moving back in with their parents and broken down penniless retirees forced to eat Alpo for supper.

The entire world seems to currently be in a “contained depression” which may lead to a continuing slide in the standard of living for years to come.  Making matters even worse, a recently released research study by a University of Michigan professor alleges that the destiny of children whose parents are not wealthy is predetermined and they will have an exceptionally difficult time moving up the socioeconomic ladder.

“Especially in the United States, people underestimate the extent to which your destiny is linked to your background. Research shows that it’s really a myth that the U.S. is a land of exceptional social mobility,” said Fabian Pfeffer, a sociologist at the U-M Institute for Social Research and the organizer of an international conference on inequality across multiple generations being held Sept. 13-14 in Ann Arbor.

He found that parental wealth plays an important role in whether children move up or down the socioeconomic ladder in adulthood. And that parental wealth has an influence above and beyond the three factors that sociologists and economists have traditionally considered in research on social mobility—parental education, income and occupation.

“Despite the widespread belief that the U.S. provides exceptional opportunities for upward mobility, these data show that parental wealth has an important role in shielding offspring from downward mobility and sustaining their upward mobility in the U.S. no less than in countries like Germany and Sweden, where parental wealth also serves as a private safety net that not even the more generous European public programs and social services seem to provide.”

As a remedy against “poor parents” the professor declares that the state should provide a level of social benefits that would provide “a functional equivalent to the insurance against adverse outcomes afforded by parental wealth.”  In other words, the government should ensure that every child’s parent be given generous social benefits that would put them at the same wealth level as wealthy people.

This professor has been in an ivory tower for way too long.  His depressing conclusion that a child’s destiny is predetermined by the status of his parents defies common sense.  If his theory was true, the generation of American children growing up during the depression would have never escaped poverty and none of them would have excelled at anything.  We would still be in the same depression that started in the 30’s.  Instead of expecting social benefits and being sanctioned as victims, Americans worked their way out of the depression and achieved the greatest wealth the world has ever seen.

The professor needs to go back to the drawing board, gain some common sense and read some previous studies such as the one done at Harvard that followed the path of 456 children over a period of 40 years.  Here are some excerpts, but every parent should read the full article.

Harvard University researchers followed 456 children over a 40 year period. Those children assigned chores from an early age turned into adults who earned more, had more job satisfaction, better marriages, lived longer healthier lives and, most importantly, lived much happier lives.

These are the remarkable findings of a 40-year study than began in the 1940’s – a study than may help you raise happier children today.  Started in an effort to understand juvenile delinquency, the study followed the lives of 456 teen-age boys from inner-city Boston, many from impoverished or broken homes.  When they were compared at middle age, one fact stood out: regardless of intelligence, family income, ethnic background or amount of education, those who had worked as boys, even at simple household chores, enjoyed happier and more productive lives than those who did not.

But can the lives of boys who were born during the Depression – when childhood work was often a necessity – really tell us anything about bringing up happy children in the prosperous 1980’s? “I believe the same principles apply today,” say Vaillant.  He is supported by psychologist H. Stephen Glenn, who presents child-rearing workshops throughout the country.  Glenn declares that parent who “do everything” for their children may actually perform a disservice.  “Many kids themselves realize the value of this ethic,” says Glenn.  “One eleven year old stated it beautifully.  He told his mother, “You only need to know three things about kids.  Don’t hit them too much, don’t yell at them too much and don’t do too much for them”.

Today that smart eleven year old child would probably tell the government and the misguided professor: “Don’t sanction us as victims” and “Don’t smother us with a culture of dependency.”

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