Careers, Parents, and the 1%
December 2, 2011 7:26 AM   Subscribe

Your parents have a huge influence on your future career. A single chart from the Journal of Labor Economics shows how much the top 1% benefit from their parent's success and networks (Results are from Canada, but the same is observed elsewhere). Nepotism is a very common phenomenon, and explains part of why income mobility between generations can be such a problem. Beyond the importance of parental networks and money, however, there is evidence that our genes influence our career choices, including whether you become an entrepreneur.
posted by blahblahblah (71 comments total) 29 users marked this as a favorite

 
Beyond the importance of parental networks and money, however, there is evidence that our genes influence our career choices, including whether you become an entrepreneur.

For confirmation or debunking of this theory, I have often thought that they should study the ROI of members of Indian business communities - carefully crafted arranged marriages (alliances) over 10 or 15 generations between subcastes and clans active in trading and business should be resulting in some offspring with natural born and/or nurtured abilities.
posted by infini at 7:37 AM on December 2, 2011 [4 favorites]


I should clarify that there is good evidence that genes may influence career choices, but much less evidence that they lead to success in a given career.
posted by blahblahblah at 7:38 AM on December 2, 2011


Your parents have a huge influence on your future career. A single chart from the Journal of Labor Economics shows how much the top 1% benefit from their parent's success and networks (Results are from Canada, but the same is observed elsewhere)

I don't doubt that the conclusion is largely true, but the chart doesn't really show how much the "top 1%" benefits. It says that around 70% of the sons of top 1% in earnings at some point were employed at the same firm as the father. But this would be true whether the son worked in the mailroom in the summer before going off to college and then subsequently had a mediocre career, or got an internship that led directly to a high-paying job. Put differently, the better way to look at this, it seems to me, would be to take the current top 1%, and see how many were employed by their parents' firms.
posted by dsfan at 7:42 AM on December 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


there is evidence that our genes influence our career choices

Wow. I'm amazed at just how hard my inner knee jerked at this. Mostly because it sounds too close to "girls are bad at math while boys are good at math AMIRITE."

Off to actually RTFA, now, however.
posted by rmd1023 at 7:44 AM on December 2, 2011


If you've ever worked for a family business and had to deal with the owner's son, you know this to be true. You also know the owner's son is also an incompetent arrogant idiot. (My apologizes if you're the owner's son and this is the first time you're learning this fact)
posted by Blake at 7:57 AM on December 2, 2011 [10 favorites]


You know, I was thinking this morning how much nicer it would be to just live in Brave New World.
posted by mrgrimm at 8:03 AM on December 2, 2011 [4 favorites]


This ^^^ chart and related research are kind of a no brainers, though. The more successful the family business, the more likely junior gets involved. Mo money, mo money.

The rise of the anti-estate tax movement is pretty much where America jumped the shark.
posted by mrgrimm at 8:08 AM on December 2, 2011 [5 favorites]


I'd say parental influence is more on the "nurture" side of the influence rather than the "nature." A child with parents who are more risk-averse in temperment may get a little less support if the career they choose is in something with less of a guarantee of success, like the arts or something similar.

NOT THAT I'M BITTER OR ANYTHING
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:08 AM on December 2, 2011 [7 favorites]


from the comments: This is precisely why its so important for each of is to geyboff our butts and get it done everyday.

... I'm off to geyboff! Cheers.

posted by mrgrimm at 8:09 AM on December 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Mostly because it sounds too close to "girls are bad at math while boys are good at math AMIRITE."

You may be shocked to learn that the brain is a biological organ and it would be unsurprising to learn that some functions (possibly including the extremely general "math" category) could be correlated with some genes.
posted by DU at 8:12 AM on December 2, 2011 [5 favorites]


Aristocracies are bad ideas.
posted by The Whelk at 8:16 AM on December 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Maybe not entirely related, but:

« I recently came across a psychological study showing that Americans tend to choose careers whose labels resemble their names. Thus the name Dennis is statistically overrepresented among dentists, and the ranks of geoscientists contain disproportionately high numbers of Georges and Geoffreys. The study ascribed these phenomena to “implicit egotism”: the “generally positive feelings” that people have about their own names. »
Elif Batuman in her The Possessed: Adventures With Russian Books and the People Who Read Them
posted by procrastinator at 8:18 AM on December 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


I was the owner's son managing my Dad's small coffee shop. It taught me one valuable lesson: never work for my Dad. It also taught me respect for his employees that put up with his antics.
posted by arcticseal at 8:23 AM on December 2, 2011 [7 favorites]


You may be shocked to learn that the brain is a biological organ and it would be unsurprising to learn that some functions (possibly including the extremely general "math" category) could be correlated with some genes.

Yes, sure, but the not-always-glorious history of scientific assumptions and their sociological and ideological foundations teach us that we should be very careful about making such claims before having solid proof. "Genes have to do with everything, so it should/can be true!!" certainly doesn't cut it.

Obligatory reading: Stephen J. Gould — Women's Brains [ pdf ]
posted by procrastinator at 8:25 AM on December 2, 2011 [5 favorites]


Thus the name Dennis is statistically overrepresented among dentists

Your dentist's name is Crentist?
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:28 AM on December 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


You may be shocked to learn that the brain is a biological organ and it would be unsurprising to learn that some functions (possibly including the extremely general "math" category) could be correlated with some genes.

Please see slide 21. (The whole slideshow is pretty great, so read them all!)
posted by rtha at 8:29 AM on December 2, 2011 [11 favorites]


A child with parents who are more risk-averse in temperment may get a little less support if the career they choose is in something with less of a guarantee of success, like the arts or something similar.

If the parents are risk-averse enough, they may avoid having children all together....

Which will surely affect their offspring's employment process.
posted by GenjiandProust at 8:29 AM on December 2, 2011 [4 favorites]


Here's the thing: even if there's no actual 1-2 degrees of separation between dad and an employer (or an admissions committee, or future in-laws, or a seminar professor or graduate advisor, or an internship coordinator or mentor, or a board appointment, etc. etc. etc.), children of the 1% are born with an automatic halo effect...plus, if mom or dad or lastname is prominent enough, folks imagine eventual proximity to famous_parent/rich_parent via proximity to their kid.

Also, rich kids don't have a lock on sexy un-paid or underpaid internships in non-profits or politics (just) because they're the only ones who can work for free in NYC or DC or SF, etc....they get them because they/their parents are potential donors.
posted by availablelight at 8:29 AM on December 2, 2011


I've wondered why shareholders of a corporation tolerate this. Out of 6.8 billion people on Earth, somehow Rupert Murdoch's son just happens to be the right person for the top job at News Corp?

That's why I hate whenever a corporation does something bad like pollute or use third world sweatshops I'll hear the excuse that they were legally obligated to maximize profits for the shareholder; yet nepotism is okay somehow?
posted by bobo123 at 8:35 AM on December 2, 2011 [4 favorites]


I think if you can find a figure that awesome for your study, it independently increases the probability of your paper being published somewhere good, regardless of what you're studying.
posted by scunning at 8:35 AM on December 2, 2011


> If you've ever worked for a family business and had to deal with the owner's son, you know this to be true. You also know the owner's son is also an incompetent arrogant idiot.

I know. He's my mayor.
posted by The Card Cheat at 8:37 AM on December 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Thank you rtha for beating me to the link I was about to post in response. :)
posted by rmd1023 at 8:45 AM on December 2, 2011


In particular, note the difference between slide 11 (general perception of "women are worse at math") vs the actual data in slide 21.
posted by rmd1023 at 8:46 AM on December 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Great slide show, rtha. I would have loved to have used it to illustrate the difference between a "statistically significant difference" and a "real world significant difference".
posted by benito.strauss at 8:52 AM on December 2, 2011


I recently came across a psychological study showing that Americans tend to choose careers whose labels resemble their names. Thus the name Dennis is statistically overrepresented among dentists, and the ranks of geoscientists contain disproportionately high numbers of Georges and Geoffreys.

I am a mathematician named madcaptenor, which is (a very small amount of) evidence for this hypothesis.

(Seriously, my name is Michael.)
posted by madcaptenor at 8:53 AM on December 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Incidentally, there are genes other than the ones found on X and Y chromosomes.
posted by Jpfed at 8:53 AM on December 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


I have once in my life gotten a job just on merit and not because I knew someone (family or friend from school). I didn't even take that job, though I think I should have. It was a summer job, and in retrospect would have been better than the summer job I did take. (I have applied for lots of jobs where I have connections which I didn't get, also. But still)

(I am not quite the 1%, but my family sure is.)
posted by jeather at 8:57 AM on December 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


The Atlantic article (third link) is a stupid piece of poop written by a stupid poophead.

Americans increasingly feel that there is nothing wrong with hiring a relative or giving someone else's relative a break, so long as he or she is qualified. We even say that pulling strings to help relatives who are qualified is not really nepotism.

Do we now?

Mainly, however, the new nepotism differs in combining the privileges of birth with the iron rule of merit in a way that is much less offensive to democratic sensibilities.

Is it now?

The modern definition of "nepotism" is simply favoritism based on kinship, but most people today use the term very narrowly, to mean hiring not just a relative but one who is grossly incompetent.

Why does the part after "kinship" exist in that sentence?

Yet in family businesses nepotism is often the rule, and it is usually accepted as the way things are by everyone involved. In such cases nepotism appears to be a problem only when the beneficiary is manifestly unqualified.

Just because you can't do anything about it doesn't mean you approve of it. Ask anyone who's ever worked for the owner's kid(s) and see how they think nepotism works in practice.

Yet some acknowledge that nepotism may be a rational practice, because it can reduce the cost of extensive talent searches. Still others argue that hiring family members is the best way to promote important values of trust and solidarity. And despite official anti-nepotism policies, many executives admit that they prefer to hire the relatives of current employees, because their experience suggests that the proven conduct of a relative best predicts the behavior of a prospective worker.

Who are these pro-nepotism economists? Like, name names. I want to know. And name the thinktanks they take checks from, too.

The most offensively obtuse bit from the article:

From a feminist perspective, the word "nepotism" evokes a long history of slights against women, given that in historical practice it has favored sons over daughters. Even after the feminist revolution nepotism continues to play a role in rearguard efforts to preserve the male monopoly on power. This is evident from the intensity of the feminist campaign against exclusive men's clubs, old-boy networks, and the "glass ceiling" that blocks the advancement of female executives. From the perspective of black Americans, nepotism may be perceived as tantamount to racism, since favoritism toward whites, whether relatives or not, is objectively no different from discrimination against blacks.

For most Americans, nepotism is first and last a class issue—a way for the rich to warehouse their unemployable offspring while keeping the lower classes in their place.


Since when did women and African-Americans not equal most Americans? Why are you minimizing their perspectives and making them the oddball one, without even a whole paragraph dedicated to each context? And where do other minorities fit in this narrative, anyway? Do you have to be black to view nepotism as racist? WTF?

When we talk about nepotism, what we are really talking about is the transmission of property, knowledge, and authority from one generation to the next.

Nepotism is not the same as education and inheritance. When we talk about nepotism, what we are really talking about is nepotism.

This phase culminated in the historic New Deal and civil-rights legislation, which uprooted the last legal barriers to equal opportunity.

I would not want this person teaching history.

Yet a century of sociology has concluded that an elite is a practical necessity for any society.

I would not want this person teaching sociology.

Call it what you like, the overclass, the cognitive elite, the meritocracy, today's American elite increasingly lives in its own segregated communities, sends its children to the same exclusive schools, marries within its own class, and acts in other ways to pass on its accumulated wealth, position, and privileges. In other words, the American meritocracy appears to be turning into an exclusive, inbred caste.

Such, at any rate, might be the argument of those who deny the legitimacy of the hereditary principle. But this is not my view. Rather, I would suggest that the new nepotism represents a valuable corrective to the excesses of meritocracy.


How insightful for this person to notice that the problem with America today is too many people succeeding on the merits of their skills and experience.

The late historian and cultural critic Christopher Lasch argued that an elite that regards itself as fit to rule by virtue of its merit owes no gratitude or deference to anyone. It has no ethical tie to the mass of ordinary people, and is therefore unresponsive to their needs. We spent two centuries trying to get nepotism out of government, but Lasch suggests that meritocracy unleavened by nepotism lacks a necessary humanizing element.

Never read that Lasch guy. Is this an accurate summation of his perspective? That the existence of a ruling class of untouchable elites who feel no ties to the common man can only be countered with extra helpings of nepotism? 'Cuz wow. Just, wow.

The ideal would be a balance between these two principles—a balance we appear to have struck with our new and distinctively American form of meritocratic nepotism.

Meritocratic nepotism. The article just went and said that. Meritocratic nepotism.

There's an ad next to the article for some dehydrated water. Seems reasonably priced. Just add water! What will modern science give us next?

Since we are clearly not going to get rid of the new nepotism anytime soon, Americans must come to terms with it.

Hear that, hippies? Learn to live with it.

If history shows anything, it is that nepotism in itself is neither good nor bad. It's the way you practice it that matters.

Yes, clearly, that is what history shows us. If it shows us anything. Which is, apparently, debatable.

These rules—derived from my own study of a number of dynastic families, from the biblical House of David to the Kennedys and the Bushes—can be reduced to the following simple injunctions:

I cannot imagine a sentence better crafted to make me think the person who wrote it was a wingnut crazyman.

Note that the section following this is a handy 3-step guide for how to be a better recipient of nepotism that -- literally -- made my head explode.

Above all, it is high time for us to get over our ambivalence about the "return" of dynastic families.

Yes, let's call it... ambivalence. That's a much better word than "outrage," "horror," or whatever.

There is much to be said for these "aristocratic" features of dynastic families, and as long as those families observe the meritocratic rules of the new nepotism, we really have no basis for complaint.

So just shut up and take it.

Dynastic heirs walk on very thin ice in our society: we readily grant them the benefit of the doubt, but we hold them to extremely high standards, and at the first sign of their failing to meet those standards, the hammer comes down hard.

Wait, we have a hammer? Who's wielding it? When did it last come down on anyone?

Does reality TV know about this hammer? Shrub jr.? Anyone else at all aside from the writer of this thing?

Nepotism may be objectively discriminatory, but given that people are going to practice it anyway, we may as well infuse it with meritocratic principles so that all can benefit.

Objective truth: let’s ignore it, given that people are going to practice it anyway.

Where's this chain of logic in the conservative mind when it comes to legalization?

In summary, this is not how I hoped my morning would begin. And it's harder to type with an exploded head than you think.
posted by jsturgill at 8:58 AM on December 2, 2011 [27 favorites]


You may be shocked to learn that the brain is a biological organ and it would be unsurprising to learn that some functions (possibly including the extremely general "math" category) could be correlated with some genes.

You might not be shocked to learn that the variation between males vs. males and females vs. females is far, far greater than any of the differences between mean male and mean female. Like mostly very, very low d values for anything but preferring "boys" or "girls" toys at specific ages (nothing before 1 year).

.. total derail, but the research is out there:

The Myth of Pink and Blue Brains

That article is basically a tl;dr version of rtha's Slide 21.

posted by mrgrimm at 9:02 AM on December 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


The Atlantic article in praise of nepotism is written by the son of Saul Bellow.
posted by benito.strauss at 9:02 AM on December 2, 2011 [13 favorites]


Metafilter: a stupid piece of poop written by a stupid poophead.
posted by infini at 9:03 AM on December 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Really it read like it was written by Dr. Pangloss
posted by The Whelk at 9:07 AM on December 2, 2011 [5 favorites]


But this would be true whether the son worked in the mailroom in the summer

There's always money in the banana stand.
posted by edguardo at 9:13 AM on December 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


In summary, this is not how I hoped my morning would begin. And it's harder to type with an exploded head than you think.

You are a better, stronger person than I am. I had to stop because my eyes were rolling so hard I couldn't finish it.

The Atlantic article in praise of nepotism is written by the son of Saul Bellow.

*falls down laughing*
posted by rtha at 9:13 AM on December 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


The Atlantic article in praise of nepotism is written by the son of Saul Bellow.

Perhaps more notably, Adam Bellow is the editor of Illiberal Education, The Real Anita Hill, and The Bell Curve. I won't link. ;)
posted by mrgrimm at 9:14 AM on December 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


My last job was at a global company where the nepotism was so bad, when people got promotions no one bothered thinking about if they'd earned it. We all immediately started doing six degrees of separation to figure out who they were related to or sleeping with that had gotten it for them.

Never did we come across an instance where it was not one of those two things.
posted by winna at 9:16 AM on December 2, 2011


Is the Atlantic even worth reading? I like Coates but it seems like every opinion essay in there is designed to tell the ruling classes they are in fact pretty perfect princesses who don't need to worry thier perfect perfect head about this.
posted by The Whelk at 9:16 AM on December 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


I will never be the owner's son but I will gladly accept the position of owner's son's yes man or toady if any owner's son's are hiring. Memail me.
posted by Ad hominem at 9:17 AM on December 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Lessee, that'd be the same Atlantic that continues to employ "reformed" conservative lunatic Andrew Sullivan? The guy who just recently wrote an article praising the idea that black people are just plain dumber than white people?

If the Atlantic wants to be taken seriously, the first thing they need to do is fire Andrew Sullivan. We knew what he was back before he "changed sides", and he proves that he's still exactly the slimy neo-conservative lunatic he always was.
posted by sotonohito at 9:17 AM on December 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


Also you can track Tsing Loh's slow but steady descent into word salad crazy.
posted by The Whelk at 9:19 AM on December 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


My last name is Leet, but mid-way through college I backed out of a Computer Science career. Can I use that as anecdotal support or refutation of the whole career from your name thing?

Despite a first name of Brian, I've never had an interest in the shrimping business. So, I'll go with the latter.
posted by meinvt at 9:33 AM on December 2, 2011


My middle name is George. I am a geoscientist.

My whole life I have passionately hated my middle name and I cannot remember the last time I volunteered the information.
posted by bukvich at 9:37 AM on December 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


> Is the Atlantic even worth reading? I like Coates but it seems like every opinion essay in there is designed to tell the ruling classes they are in fact pretty perfect princesses who don't need to worry thier perfect perfect head about this.

If Harper's is White Liberal Guilt Monthly, The Atlantic is White Upper-Middle-Class-Striver Validation Monthly.
posted by The Card Cheat at 9:38 AM on December 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


Um, for all those furiously rebutting DU's comment above about the brain being a biological organ that must be to some extent influenced by genes: he wasn't saying "LOL girls suck at math"--he was saying that it's possible that there may be some genetic component in career choice.

I know DU can fight his own battles, but this degree of missing someone's point is frustrating to watch.
posted by yoink at 9:50 AM on December 2, 2011


Curiously enough, you know who tend to discourage nepotism? Unions.
posted by drezdn at 10:07 AM on December 2, 2011


Curiously enough, you know who tend to discourage nepotism? Unions.


Yes because the trades in NYC don't have an level of nepotism at all nope. Just show up and apply at a closed shop and if there is an opening you'll get it. No doubt.

Laborers, Electricians, Stage folks. An open market.
posted by JPD at 10:10 AM on December 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


If Harper's is White Liberal Guilt Monthly, The Atlantic is White Upper-Middle-Class-Striver Validation Monthly.

Too funny, but Harper's has better fiction (AM is no slouch ... but only once a year now.)

I know DU can fight his own battles, but this degree of missing someone's point is frustrating to watch.

Huh? Even your clarification isn't totally unrelated to the responses, and DU was responding to a comment about females and math, and speciifically included:
possibly including the extremely general "math" category
he was saying that it's possible that there may be some genetic component in career choice

without any supporting evidence, even that broad hypothetical statement is just somebody blowing smoke out their butt.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:49 AM on December 2, 2011


he was saying that it's possible that there may be some genetic component in career choice

without any supporting evidence, even that broad hypothetical statement is just somebody blowing smoke out their butt.


Note the FPP text: however, there is evidence that our genes influence our career choices
posted by Jpfed at 10:56 AM on December 2, 2011


Laborers, Electricians, Stage folks. An open market.

As somebody with at least one friend who went from BFE Panama City, FL, to become a card-carrying member of the Ironworkers union in NYC, and a few others who came from similar roots to become behind-the-scenes folks in showbiz unions, I've never heard any complaints of nepotism when it comes to union membership. I actually probably qualify for membership in a couple of stage unions, due to college and community theater stage work I've done, since it's all credit-based. I You have to meet the qualifications, sure, but you don't get into most trade unions just because of who you know or family relations, except in the sense that you're more likely to have access to training and work experience that way. But that's just a reflection of the same basic social mobility issues that contribute to nepotism in other, non-union career fields. So what's the point of bringing unions into it, JPD?
posted by saulgoodman at 11:03 AM on December 2, 2011


Note the FPP text: however, there is evidence that our genes influence our career choices

touche! there is evidence. still, pretty limited. i wonder if they balanced the testosterone with a look at women with CAH.
posted by mrgrimm at 11:04 AM on December 2, 2011


Hey guys remember the last time we hired a guy to do the job his dad did. Some Bush guy I think his name was. I seem to recall that is didn't work out all that well. Not that his dad was all that great either.
posted by The Violet Cypher at 11:10 AM on December 2, 2011


I've never heard any complaints of nepotism when it comes to union membership. I actually probably qualify for membership in a couple of stage unions, due to college and community theater stage work I've done, since it's all credit-based. [...] So what's the point of bringing unions into it, JPD?

I'm very curious to hear JPD's answer to this as well.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:14 AM on December 2, 2011


On the topic of nepotism, let's not forget the "news" media.

Chelsea Clinton, not what you'd call a noted expert on much of anything, just got hired by NPC news. This is after she was hired, right out of university, as a six figure "consultant" for some major corporation.

Similarly NBC hired Luke Russert, known for nothing but having a famous newscaster father.

And Jenna Bush, known mainly for being the less drunken of the Bush twins.

Let's also not forget Meghan McCain, MSNBC's latest purely nepotistic acquisition.

I don't think it's really so much nepotism as it is the rise of the new aristocracy. We've already pretty much eliminated the estate tax so that the children of wealth and power can life lives of endless excess and luxury without ever having to worry about such plebeian things as work. It isn't surprising that we're getting "jobs" for the children of wealth and power as well.
posted by sotonohito at 11:17 AM on December 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


My parents certainly had a huge influence on my choice of career. My father was unemployed and my mother was a housewife and later a secretary, to pay the bills my father couldn't. These career choices definitely helped direct me towards a career that satisfied the following criteria:

1. Is it a job that pays money?
2. Will they offer me the job?

I am proud to say I accepted the very first job that met these stringent criteria. Because I was worth it.
posted by Decani at 11:17 AM on December 2, 2011 [7 favorites]


Certainly the building trades that I have personal experience with - Laborers and Electricians it is not as simple as showing up and becoming an apprentice. I have family and friends that are union laborers and electricians. I have other friends who work in TV behind the scenes who can't get into the unions there because they started out in non-union productions - which were the only options available to them. I don't know any Ironworkers. It is entirely possible that they have better rules and policies on the matter.

And I didn't bring unions into it. Someone else did.
posted by JPD at 12:06 PM on December 2, 2011


Of course people benefit from their parents' success. One of the most powerful incentives that motivates people to work is the belief that they must provide for their children. I can understand objecting to this reality, but it's a fact of life.
posted by John Cohen at 12:11 PM on December 2, 2011


I have other friends who work in TV behind the scenes who can't get into the unions there because they started out in non-union productions - which were the only options available to them.

I have a hunch that this may not be an entirely accurate assessment of the situation. Not that I'm saying you're lying -- only that I suspect that there are some missing details that would offer an alternate explanation, and that either you or your friends mis-heard what the problem was.

As for theater unions -- I've had direct experience with one, and have friends in others, and all of those are merit-based. I don't know of a single instance in which someone was prevented from JOINING a union because they started in non-union work. They may have been initially prevented from working on a single union SHOW, but their having worked in non-union shows didn't bar their inclusion in the Union ITSELF. (In fact, for many of us, the answer to the "I want to work on an all-union show but I'm not a union member" is how we GOT our union cards in the first place -- the producer stepped in and told the union "I want Empress and no other, so I will sponsor her initial union dues". That's how I got in.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:12 PM on December 2, 2011


Haha, Decani, right there with you. My dad's experience as an entrepreneur definitely taught me that I would rather die than start a business, and my parents' set of useless degrees convinced me I'd better major in something useful.

I never knew there was any sort of correlation between what one does and what one's parents do until I entered the workforce. It has been staggering to me how many of my colleagues were raised by engineers or mathematicians (I am in software). I had no idea. I don't think I've ever met a US-born female software engineer other than myself who didn't have one or both parents in the industry as well.

I feel like my public university education really did what it was supposed to do in my case - it was absolutely an engine of social mobility for me, and every job I've gotten in my life has been because I impressed a professor who in turn referred me to a recruiter - and it's weird how rare I find that to be among non-immigrant kids. Most of my friends are about as well-placed in the middle class as their parents were, and many have put in time working for their parents.

I feel like there were a lot of memos I just never got about the choices one makes in life, or something.
posted by troublesome at 12:13 PM on December 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


The "shock" Journal Of Labor Economics chart and that economics blog post (which I thought was rather odd) is not really shocking when you consider inheritance and family firm ownership (much of the 1% same-firm employment shown here will likely be simply rich people and their kids "employed" in family fortune investment firms whose main purpose is simply to guard and enhance the family Scrooge McDuck-style giant pile of coins). What Murdoch prizes most in his executive kids (and remember the Murdoch family still retains majority voting stock ownership in News Corp, so they control News Corp... they are not servants of public News Corp shareholders, though they are influenced) is loyalty and the family future not their competence as businesspeople.
posted by Bwithh at 1:24 PM on December 2, 2011


Still reading the OP, but as far as anecdotes go, I got you all beat.

Parents influencing your career? Yup.
My father was a software engineer, and my (unemployed) mother's favorite hobby was playing PC games. So of course I went into video games.

Names influencing your career? Yup.
I majored in English literature, can read Old English, studied abroad in England, and was well on my way to becoming an English teacher til the last minute. My last name? England.

(I might be having an identity crisis right now. Thanks, Metafilter.)

By the way, being on the receiving end of nepotism was creepy as hell for me. I had some job interviews thanks to some pushy family members, and each time I felt totally out of control of my life, as though I was following a path someone else was laying out for me based on who they wanted me to be rather than who I actually was. Refusing an opportunity was like a personal insult to them. I can't imagine what it would have been like if they actually ran the companies they were pulling strings at, or were my parents themselves.
posted by subject_verb_remainder at 1:26 PM on December 2, 2011


The one thing I wish I understood in my early twenties was the importance of one's social class of origin as I would have made very different employment choices, but this is a story for another post.

One time I confronted a couple of the senior partners at the boutique investment bank that employed me at the time, and suggested that, if they were going to hire their friends and relatives (and especially when they planned to dump them on me to train), they should at least hire the ones with a couple of active neurons, a decent attitude and some kind of a work ethic as we would make more money if they did. Although they seemed to understand and accept my argument, it did not change their selection process. (Not that I expected that they would modify their choices, but I felt obligated to make the point just the same given how much of my time was being wasted.)
posted by cool breeze at 1:27 PM on December 2, 2011



As far as one's name influencing his or her career. My first name is Ruth, my Middle name is Lys. So...Ruthless (hence the soubriquet).

I'm not a leg breaker, although I've been known to break a few balls.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 2:11 PM on December 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


My first name is Famous Porn Star, but I'm actually a Certified Public Accountant.

Ironically, my sister Actuariala, is a famous porn star.
posted by twoleftfeet at 3:29 PM on December 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


Aristocracies are bad ideas.

The author of the first link has another post about how the U.S. is among the least mobile of rich countries, so if your Daddy couldn't get you a job, you're not going to have much chance of getting a good job for your Junior.

It's a bad idea to devote job creation to the top 1%, or their children, because so few of them actually create jobs. If you look a list of the largest job creators, you won't see many Rockefellers or Vanderbilts. Real economic progress comes out of talent and timing, not a rich father.
posted by twoleftfeet at 3:48 PM on December 2, 2011


“There’s a Pete Campbell at every agency out there.”
“Well, let’s get one of the other ones.”
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:36 PM on December 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Americans tend to choose careers whose labels resemble their names.

My immediate reaction to this: "Oh don't be absur-" (Thinks of first 3 letters of last name. Thinks of first 3 letters of field I'm studying. Match found). "Huh."
posted by naoko at 10:44 PM on December 2, 2011


Americans tend to choose careers whose labels resemble their names.

In that case, I would be a chiropractor for small game birds. Which would be kind of nice, although I would get called out on MeFi for peddling woo to defenseless creatures.
posted by arcticseal at 10:50 PM on December 2, 2011


What kind of job does the name of a small town in Poland get you?
posted by readyfreddy at 1:20 AM on December 3, 2011


My name means political ethics, guess that's why I'm unemployed.
posted by infini at 4:33 AM on December 3, 2011


And I didn't bring unions into it. Someone else did.
oops--of course you didn't. sorry about that.

posted by saulgoodman at 7:19 AM on December 3, 2011


I don't think I've ever met a US-born female software engineer other than myself who didn't have one or both parents in the industry as well.

Really? I don't know any US-born female software engineers that had parents in the industry, mostly because the industry was very small in the 70s and 80s as compared to today. They do tend to come from dual-income families, though.
posted by ch1x0r at 3:08 PM on December 3, 2011


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