Birthplace influences adult income, new research suggests

A new study finds that factors influencing where you're born continue to affect your earnings throughout life.

Birthplace influences adult income, new research suggests
Image source: bysora / Shutterstock
  • Children born, raised, and working in big cities tend to be more successful.
  • A mountain of British demographic data reveals the correlation.
  • Are more successful families created by cities, or are they more likely to move there?

A new study, published in March in the Journal of Urban Economics, finds that the location in which you're born is likely to correlate to the amount of money you earn as an adult. It's not magic, but rather the continuing influence of factors that resulted in your mother giving birth to you where she did in the first place. Since living in a big city can mean earning higher wages, being born in one — and growing up there — is likelier to lead to a lifelong economic advantage.

The study’s data

Image source: Sean Pavone/Shutterstock

The authors of the study, Clément Bosquet of the University of Cergy-Pontoise in France and Henry G. Overman of the London School of Economics, derived their conclusions from an analysis of highly-detailed demographic data collected for the U.K.'s British Household Panel Survey. The information it contains was sourced in 18 waves from 1991 to 2009 from interviews with everyone 16 and older residing at a specific address. Individuals who moved from these residences to other locations were also tracked. On average, participants were interviewed 7.4 times over the course of the project, and Bosquet and Overman discarded individuals not interviewed at least twice.

After factoring out data that the researchers felt would skew clear results — including periods of unemployment, study, and retirement, for example — they were left a baseline data set of 55,382 observations for 75,00 individuals. (This data set was expanded as necessary for deriving insights into certain specific demographic characteristics.)

Why this happens

Image source: Flystock/Shutterstock

Previous research has documented the reasons that residents of affluent areas in big cities wind up with higher incomes — the downside being the unfortunate fact that those who live in areas of urban poverty find it harder to climb the socioeconomic ladder.

It's believed that the advantages of living in a big city come from the greater number of benefits available, among them abundant amenities and opportunities for employment, wider educational choices, and robust social networks.

Large urban centers also perpetuate the growing gap between the well-off and everyone else in terms of potential success, especially as the U.S. population is increasingly moving into such expensive places to live. They attract more well-off residents in the first place, and it's their children who are the focus of this study. About 80 percent of children born to professionals, finds the study, are born in large urban areas. Even more significant is that urban kids are more likely to get a good education, a characteristic they share with their well-educated parents, a majority of whom favor city life.

The study asserts that nearly half of us — a whopping 43.7 percent never move out of the areas in which we're born, and indeed, the effect of birth location is strongest for these children. They benefit from urban advantages throughout their childhoods, teen years, and adulthood, and in general enjoy the increased odds for success that all big-city dwellers enjoy. People who move to big cities as adults also do better than those remaining in birthplaces having fewer economic advantages.

Live on Thursday: Learn innovation with 3-star Michelin chef Dominique Crenn

Dominique Crenn, the only female chef in America with three Michelin stars, joins Big Think Live this Thursday at 1pm ET.

Big Think LIVE

Add event to your calendar

AppleGoogleOffice 365OutlookOutlook.comYahoo


Keep reading Show less

Physicists solve a 140-year-old mystery

Scientists discover the inner workings of an effect that will lead to a new generation of devices.

Carrier-resolved photo-Hall effect.

Credit: IBM
Surprising Science
  • Researchers discover a method of extracting previously unavailable information from superconductors.
  • The study builds on a 19th-century discovery by physicist Edward Hall.
  • The research promises to lead to a new generation of semiconductor materials and devices.
Keep reading Show less

Want students to cheat less? Science says treat them justly

Students who think the world is just cheat less, but they need to experience justice to feel that way.

A student tries to cheat.

Credit: Roman Pelesh/Shutterstock
Surprising Science
  • Students in German and Turkish universities who believed the world is just cheated less than their pessimistic peers.
  • The tendency to think the world is just is related to the occurence of experiences of justice.
  • The findings may prove useful in helping students adjust to college life.
Keep reading Show less

A key COVID-19 immune response in children has been identified

This could change how researchers approach vaccine development.

A South Korean child wears a mask to prevent catching the coronavirus (COVID-19) while riding a scooter on February 27, 2020 in Seoul, South Korea.

Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images
Coronavirus
  • The reason children suffer less from the novel coronavirus has remained mysterious.
  • Researchers identified a cytokine, IL-17A, which appears to protect children from the ravages of COVID-19.
  • This cytokine response could change how researchers approach vaccine development.
Keep reading Show less
Scroll down to load more…
Quantcast