by Trevor McKendrick on December 5, 2012
Why do many people end up in the same socioeconomic rung as their parents?
There’s at least two reasons I can think of.
First, it’s easier to do something when you’ve seen someone else do it.
People thought the human body could not run a mile in less than four minutes until Roger Bannister did it in 1954. Once he had shown it was possible, two months later two other runners did it in the same race.
It’s the same with being raised by parents who got rich. You saw what they did, you know it can be done.
On the other hand, if you don’t know anyone who has gone to college you might not know how that process works or even consider trying.
Being the first to do something is hard.
Second. I think everyone has what I call an “internal productivity quota” (IPQ). Your IPQ is the amount of stuff you need to accomplish so you feel happy and productive instead of lazy and depressed.
IPQ levels are different in everyone. They help explain (part of) the reason why people who don’t need money continue to work so hard: they’d feel unproductive if they didn’t.
Like other human behavior I think IPQ’s are a function of nature and nurture. I believe humans tend to fall and rise to the average behavior of the people around them. If we spend our time with others who don’t do well in school, don’t have jobs, and watch a lot of TV, our IPQ will adjust down. We won’t be as productive, but over time that will feel okay because it’s what everyone else is doing.
On the flip side if we’re around friends who wake up at 6 to hit the gym and work a disciplined 12 hour day, our IPQ will slowly adjust up. We’ll feel the difference.
So to answer the question in the post title, most people end up like their parents because no one else has as large an influence on one’s IPQ. And because our parents probably chose to live in a place with people similar to them, everyone you knew growing up was the same way, too. After 18+ years surrounded by the same type of people, it becomes difficult to break out and do something different.