Definitive Proof That Life Isn't Fair, In 2 Charts

It's a bummer, but it's true. And in a new paper by economists at Harvard and the University of California at Berkeley, we found a couple of charts that show how the life we're born into determines the life we lead.

Let's first take a look at this chart, which shows the extremely linear relationship between how rich a woman's parents are and how likely she is to give birth as a teenager:

teenage birth control chart

As you can see, the correlation is stark: The wealthier the daughter, the less likely she is to get pregnant in her teens. And while past research has found teen pregnancy doesn't necessarily lead to more economic strains -- one expert once told the New York Times in 2012 that it is a “a symptom, not a cause” of poverty -- it certainly limits opportunity for some. The opportunity to go to college, for instance, is one more thing that's determined in large part by mom and dad's pay:

college attendance

With this chart, the effect on income is more clear. Study after study has found that the best way to improve one's lot in life in the long term is to nab a college degree. But that remains much, much easier for rich kids than it does for those at the bottom rung of society. Or as the authors of the report so wonkily put it:

"These substantial correlations suggest that much of the divergence in outcomes between children from low vs. high income families emerges well before they enter the labor market[.]"

CLARIFICATION: A previous version of this post said the first chart tracked teenage pregnancy against parental income rank. It tracks teenage birth rates against parental income rank, as you can see in the chart.



How Increasing Income Inequality Leads To Less Opportunity