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Higher-income kids were more likely to become lawyers than doctors, study finds

Posted Mar 25, 2014 5:45 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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Lawyers and judges were more likely to have richer parents than doctors and engineers, according to a government study that tracked more than 12,000 people over decades.

NPR’s Planet Money looked at the data and constructed a graph linking survey participants’ jobs as adults in 2010 to the household income of their parents in 1979 when the study participants were young. The lawyers and judges in the sample came from households with median incomes of $85,000 to $89,999, in 2010 dollars.

The study also found:

• Doctors, dentists and surgeons came from households with median incomes of $55,000 to $55,999. Also in this childhood income category were nurses, social workers, counselors, clerks, salespersons and administrative assistants.

• Teachers, accountants, computer programmers and administrators, and media workers came from households with median incomes of $60,000 to $64,999.

• Engineers, architects, chief executives, general managers, designers, musicians and artists came from households with median incomes of $65,000 to $69,999.

• Financial analysts and advisers came from households with median incomes of $80,000 to $85,999.

Doctors, dentists and surgeons had the greatest upward change in income between childhood and adulthood, followed by chief executives, then police officers and firefighters. The group that fared the worst in income, relative to their parents, consisted of designers, artists and musicians.

NPR based its figures on the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The Washington Post’s Post Partisan blog noted the findings.

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