Tuesday, May 25, 2021

The Persistence of Inherited Jobs

The New York Times has a fascinating article out showing how likely people in certain professions are to have a parent in who had the same job. For example, the child of a doctor is 19 times more likely to be a doctor than a random person. But that's a small effect compared to what prevails in fishing; the child of a fisherman is 362 times as likely to be a fisher as a random person. Some other professions:

Fishers      362x as likely
Textile machine operator     159
Medical and laboratory techs     126
Aircraft mechanics    118
Librarians    106
Printing press operators    91
Dishwashers     91
Human resources managers    78
Textile machine operator    75
Packaging machine operators    39
Bartender   36
Lawyers    27

I was really surprised that there is a big effect for human resources managers; why would that be?

More data at the link, sorted by the effect of mother vs. father. It's fascinating to see how strong these patterns are in our allegedly free world.


Shadow said...

I'm no longer a Times subscriber, so my comment is made without reading the article.

And there is Donald Trump who followed his father into Real Estate. People disagree as to how much money dad gave son to start his own business. But what matters more, I think, is all the people his father knew who were either his friends and therefore willing to help Donald or owed a favor and paid it off by helping Donald. This is true for a lot of careers and may explain, at least in part, why son/daughter follows father/mother into same career.

pootrsox said...

My experience is strictly anecdotal, but I am surprised to see educators not on the list, at least for girls/mothers.

So many of my teacher friends were either the offspring of one or two teachers or have offspring who went into education. In several cases, the daughter or son taught in the same district at the same time as their mothers!

I rather expected that experience to be more broadly occurring.

David said...

I think that, for a lot of people, following a parent's profession is what they want to do with their free choice. I think we vastly overestimate how much radical rebellion and individuation is or should be the norm.

In most cases, I don't think it's just about taking advantage of the parent's connections etc. For that matter, I don't see why one should be troubled by such things. Such advantages are not the reason Trump is the way he is. They can just as easily turn a person into an FDR. Just as being totally self-made can make a person bitter and intolerant.

Shadow said...


No one needs to be troubled by something to want to understand it. Parent's connections sometimes make it easier for their children to get a foot in the door and, therefore, may factor into a child's decision to choose the same career as their parent's career. I don't see what personalities have to do with this.

G. Verloren said...

What data set are these likelihoods derived from?

Are we talking only about professions within the United States? Because if not, I could easily see how something like fishing or textile manufacturing would still be a heavily inherited profession when looking at -global- employment trends.