Among the readers of an opinion piece I wrote in the New York Times on July 21st, Who’s Your Daddy? Job Opportunities for the children of the top 1 percent, are two top 1 percenters who kindly took the time to email me their thoughts.
One of the goofiest most nonsensical things I have ever seen filled with
contradictions as you twist opposite conclusions to fit your thesis of
inequality. Just bizarre.
Sent from my iPad
My article was based on a soon to be published paper, Income Inequality, Equality of Opportunity, and Intergenerational Mobility , so I would hope that it has some logic to it.
The following comments are from another top 1 percenter who offers a more nuanced view on my logic, such as it is.
Dear Prof. Corak –
I read your piece in today’s NY Times with great interest. As a fourth generation Italian-American who is one of the cohort of the .1% of American income earners and aggregate wealth, I think my observations may be helpful to you in your scholarship.
- You did not address the issue of out-of-wedlock birth in your piece. The correlation between being born out of wedlock and poverty is very high. Rich people have a high incidence of getting married before having children. That tends to insulate their offspring from dropping down the economic ladder.
- Rich people live in wealthy towns with good school systems. The very rich send their children to elite private schools. Consequently their children attend elite colleges and can secure high paying jobs. Nothing particularly notable there.
- America is a nation of immigrants who came here to make money. Consequently a large percentage of their children and grandchildren have had that drive and focus inculcated into their psyche. They have a self-expectation to achieve and move higher on the socio-economic ladder. My sister , a professor at the US Marine Corps Staff and Command College and at the American Military University, and I are certainly poster children for that ethic. There are millions just like us in the USA.
- Technology , aka facility with computing and access to it, has tended to widen income inequality. My son conducts his business , commercial/corporate real estate brokerage, electronically. My daughter, a college senior, does all her work electronically. Children who don’t have access and facility in technology are dramatically hampered in their quest to move up the economic ladder. That is going to increase income inequality over time.
- Social and business connections yield economic advantages for the children of the rich. My father went to the USNA-Annapolis and my mother went to Rutgers. Both my wife and I went to an Ivy League university at which we met. We belong to clubs at which we play racquet sports and at which we connect with other rich people. My son is now a member of two of the most prominent racquet sports clubs in Midtown Manhattan at which he plays squash and two other very arcane racquet sports at the highest level. He makes connections at those clubs, and other similar clubs in the east through tournament play, which help him in business. In fact his boss is my former doubles squash partner. Is the deck stacked in his favor? Absolutely. And that’s exactly in accord with my objectives. I am highly confident that when he takes over my business he will be in a position to lead it to become even more successful and prosperous , making use of his education ( a private prep school and an elite NESCAC college) and NY business contacts.
In summary, my great-grandparents and grandparents would be overjoyed about the results which their offspring have achieved. I am the only one of seven of my generation who’s not a lawyer, doctor, or holds a PH.D. so I’m the dummy of the bunch! We are each responsible for our own lives and our own children. Public policy can be changed, but it won’t be able to overcome the five points I listed above. That can only be changed by individual initiative, good decisions, brains, energy and ambition.
There are many other interesting comments on the NY Times website, but not so many that appear to be from top 1 percenters.
To some degree you can read my article as a counterpoint to Greg Mankiw’s defense of the top 1 percent in a commentary on his blog, which is also based on a forthcoming paper in the same symposium on the top 1 percent in the Journal of Economic Perspectives that will publish my paper.
We come at this topic as academics, so to have a little life breathed into texts based on theoretical models, numbers, and graphs, is refreshing. But to reflect on these real life experiences in light of theory and data is also educational.