Don’t cheat and read ahead before wagering a guess!
In particular, compare what you would guess about the income of their parents to what you would guess about the income of the parents of accountants, programmers, and doctors. Where would artists’ parents fit in?
NPR’s Planet Money sought to find the answer in this recent post.
They chose as their methodology looking at data in this this longitudinal study sponsored by the U.S. government.
To work toward an answer, they pulled people across different professions from the database and compared their household income now (in 2010 which was the most recent data available) to their household income in 1979.
This is imperfect, of course, but let’s roll with it.
The answer to my original question is of course…
The category made up of designers, musicians, and artists (and etc) had parents who had an inflation-adjusted income somewhere between $65,000 and $69,999.
Accountants, auditors, computer programmers, and administrators had parents who made slightly less somewhere between $60,000 and $64,999.
Meanwhile, doctors, dentists, and surgeons had parents who made even less, averaging somewhere between $55,000 and $59,999 among the participants in the survey.
Check out the NPR post for the rest of the data.
Doctors and artists were the biggest outliers among the group when it came to deviating from their parents, in that doctors had middle class parents and made a lot more than them. At the other extreme, artists, on average, had (what I’d call) well-off parents and make a lot less than them.
Farmers and lawyers made up another set of extremes. Farmers (and their fishing and foresting brethren) had parents with the lowest incomes while lawyers of all stripes had parents with the highest incomes. Happily, both groups are doing better than their parents.
One of the more surprising outliers was police officers and firefighters. They came from low-middle class backgrounds but made quite a bit more than their parents. I won’t get deeper into it, but I can see why that would be the case.
One of the first things I thought of upon reading this was this quote attributed to John Adams:
I must study politics and war, that my sons may have the liberty to study mathematics and philosophy, natural history and naval architecture, in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, tapestry, and porcelain
Of course, Adams was discussing professions on a national level, but I think it applies here. He’s saying that we follow something of a Maslovian hierarchy when it comes to professions — at first, we just want to stay alive, then we want to develop and grow, then we want to enrich our minds.
I’ve often pondered what it meant in the context of my own life since my parents studied and worked in math and I regressed — according to Adams — back to war and politics in school and in my first few jobs.
On the other hand, I’ve never even considered the art and music professions, almost seeing them as frivolous luxuries. As an aside, I love art and music, so I guess it has to come from somewhere
Anyhow, I thought this was interesting. Do you have any thoughts about it?