In many countries, people find it hard to climb up the economic ladder. According to a recent IZA paper, one of the reasons for social immobility is that parents’ education and income are important predictors of children’s personality traits. Wealthy and educated families have more resources to invest in forming personality traits that improve academic achievement and are valued in the labor market. These traits include time and risk preferences, as well as altruism and IQ.
The study by Thomas Deckers, Armin Falk, Fabian Kosse and Hannah Schildberg-Hörisch analyzed a sample of 732 children aged 7 to 10. Interviews and experiments showed that children from a disadvantaged background are more risk-seeking, more impatient, less altruistic, and have a lower IQ – a combination that tends to impede both academic achievement and labor market success.
Searching for potential reasons why socio-economic status affects children’s personality, the study finds that parents’ education and income shape their parenting style, family structure and “quality time” spent with their offspring. In addition, parents with a higher socio-economic status are on average older and more mature when giving birth.
Since personality is shaped during childhood and remains relatively stable over the life course, the findings underscore that providing high-quality childcare to children from a disadvantaged socio-economic background is an important instrument to achieve higher social mobility.