Better income thanks to rich childhood friends

A Hour by Harvard scholars on friendships and upward mobility concludes that children of poor parents earn significantly more as adults if they had friends from rich families. How can that be?

Childhood friendships can affect salary later. (Image: Thomas Trutschel/Photothek via Getty Images)

The study of which first the Stern reported found that children from low-income families later received an average 20 percent better salary if they had friends from a more economically privileged class.

For the investigations, the researchers evaluated data from Facebook. Based on factors such as average income, residential area or level of education, they were able to determine the socio-economic status of the parents.

Mixing should already be promoted in schools

A fifth more salary because of the “right friends” – how can that be? for dr Raj Chetty, lead author of the paper, there are three key points that favor such friendships. On the one hand, social ambition and the simple desire to climb the ladder yourself. On the other hand, basic information about the importance of education and advancement that comes with contact with economically more successful people. And last but not least, the social networks of the better off.

Her suggestion: A better mix of children from families with different income brackets should be promoted in schools. “Growing up in a community that is connected across class lines improves children’s outcomes and gives them a better chance to emerge from poverty,” she told the New York Times.

Social capital “important for the way out of poverty”

However, that is easier said than done. Of course, the development of friendships does not only depend on whether people come into contact with each other at all. According to another study, people are more likely to form friendships with people from the same group – which in turn inhibits social mixing and contributes to social inequality.

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Commenting on the study, non-directly involved Oxford researchers Noam Angrist and Bruce Sacerdote of Dartmouth College said: “These data show how important social capital is for the way out of poverty affect ambition, access to information and employment opportunities.”

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