Parents' Class --> Work Opportunities (2nd Anon 1st-year student)

posted Jun 1, 2017, 6:56 AM by Daniel Laurison

            Individuals who end up rich champion the narrative that it was their hard work that landed them in their position. After all, “[they] worked hard, [they] didn’t have all the advantages…had to pay [their] way through college;” but working hard usually isn’t enough. Professor Laurison’s dentist, whose father is also a dentist at the firm he works at, argues that his own hard work alone resulted in his prestigious and well-paying job. However, data (Chetty et al) shows that most people do end up in the class they were born in, and data* shows that people with careers in medicine and law are most likely to have children also in medicine or law. Clearly, parents’ occupation is significant in determining someone’s ultimate position.  

            Parents’ position is super influential in passing along cultural capital, or soft skills that help one in all sorts of ways. Annette Lareau explains in her book Unequal Childhoods that middle class parents teach their children skills on how to navigate institutions that could give them future success by teaching them vocabulary they will need to negotiate a raise or apply for college grants. Middle class parents have leisure time to take them to sports games, debate team, and other extracurricular activities that teach not just life skills that will help them in the job market in the future, but build relationships with middle class peers that could be helpful in their future for upward mobility. Working class parents, Lareau argues, teach their children valuable skills, but often the skills that they do teach are “out of synch with the standards of institutions” (Kindle Locations 250). Working class children are less likely to be enrolled in expensive organized activities, and their parents are less likely to be dentists, lawyers, or bankers that could teach them the skills to navigate those worlds.

            One way this manifests concretely is in the job interviewing process. Lauren Rivera’s book Pedigree shows that, when employers at jobs such as consulting, banking, and law—the kinds of jobs that could pay off student debt promptly—hire new applicants, they look for the kinds of skills that one would have learned in elite environments. When they hire from places like elite college campuses, they know all the students are intelligent because they were accepted to and graduated from an elite school. So, they hire people that have had similar experiences to them, and who they want to spend time with. Applicants are therefore evaluated not on their hard work, but rather on their connections and mutual friends, the leisure activities they grew up doing (family vacations in Europe or lacrosse camp), and the soft skills of charm and grace that they would have picked up in middle class family environments. These presuppose privilege, not hard work, so while one does have to work hard to get a job that pays well, hard work is insufficient.

*this comes from the slides in class. I took notes on this but I don’t know the source