A kid born into a family that is well off has 2 massive advantages –
1. Parents that are well educated (largely the case)
2. Parents who can afford good education
For the purposes of this, let’s take well educated parents as a proxy for good parents. We can argue about this for days but I think it is safe to say that well educated parents are much more likely to be good parents in that they can ensure their kids build on their skills, learning, and network.
Second, these kids have parents who can invest in their education – good schools, good books, great technology, etc.
Both these advantages typically kick-start a chain of events that looks something like this – good school -> good university -> good first job -> good graduate school -> better job and career prospects.
Yes, some parts of this chain are debatable – if/when you do graduate school, etc., but this chain is significant. Even if we agree that a good university is a proxy for a reasonably successful career, that’s still a huge advantage. For detractors who like to point to successful companies being built by university drop outs, let’s take a moment to remember that Microsoft and Facebook had their beginnings in Harvard dorms and several others in other illustrious universities like Stanford.
I’m spit-balling a bit with the numbers here but let’s assume the average top 500 university has an undergraduate student population of 3000 students per year. That’s only 1.5 million people. And, say we assume a world population of 7 Billion and assume identical distribution across ages between 1-70, we’re looking at around 100 million people sharing the same age.
Essentially, that’s about 1.5% of the population. I wouldn’t be surprised if the actual number would 1% or less.
How easy is it for a kid born in a low income family to be part of this privileged 1%? I’d say very very hard. This analysis would probably get even more interesting if you then dug into numbers within top graduate school programs across disciplines. I’d be willing to bet that that those seats are largely a smaller percentage of this privilege 1%. And, once we include a new variable – the location of birth – I think you will see that the chances of a kid born into a low income family in a less affluent country has practically a 0 percent chance of ever seeing the kind of life many of us take for granted. And, this doesn’t even consider the odds for a kid whose parents abandoned him/her at birth..
And, of course, all of this is decided by something you have no control over – birth.
This post is not some clarion call to stop complaining, keep perspective, and be happy every single moment. It could be. But, I recognize we are human. That doesn’t mean we can’t work on being happier, complaining less, and giving thanks more often.
This post is about doing 2 things –
1. Take a moment right now to recognize your privilege. If you are in the top 1% of privilege, then recognize it and give thanks. You and I were born lucky. Let’s be humble about it.
2. Do something to help a few kids who were born in tough situations. Even a little goes a long way. I’m sure have expenses but you can easily pledge 1 or 2% from your salary to give to kids who haven’t had your luck. It’s a big problem. It’s a tough problem. We’ve just begin getting our heads around it at Help2Grow. That doesn’t mean we are going to make headway in solving it. It’s a tough problem.. but there are few worthier problems to try solving.