Generational patterns

Published on Mar 26, 2019

As an Asian kid, I've commiserated with my other Asian-American friends about the parental push for us to engage in high-security professions, like medicine, law, or engineering, as I've thought aloud in a previous 200WAD

My brain thinks there is a relationship between the socioeconomic background of a parent and this particular desire for their children to do well in school and choose more practical career paths. (Of course the reality is much more complicated than that.) A Chinese-immigrant-PhD friend once shared her anecdotal observations with me: first-generation is typically blue-collar, second generation is STEM, third-generation is leadership/creative. (So naturally, she may be self-selecting for only people in education due to her status as a PhD candidate.)

But still, that observation reminded me of the common saying among wealth advisors: the first generation makes it, the second generation spends it, and the third generation blows it. Maybe the closer truth is that the more comfortable your security net is, the greater the career risk you allow your children to take. So the second- and third- generations are not just blatantly depleting their families' wealth, but are statistically diminishing that wealth because their risky career decisions (a gamble?).

And I think that's not a bad thing! Lots of liberal art and art majors I know come from comfortably middle-class or upper-class families. Maybe they learn to be happier with less money. Maybe they don't come from parents who think life is a zero-sum game who feels that it is crucial to aggrandize wealth intergenerationally.