I've been a parent for less than a year, but I can see it already. In fact, that realization led me to assemble a free e-book on the subject called How to Raise Successful Kids. We're now in the second edition--you can download it here.
It turns out that I've been missing one obvious thing, however. It's that the shortcut to figuring out the way to raise successful kids is, for lack of a better term, to follow the money.
In other words, figure out what it is that wealthy people do for their kids--because they have the resources to choose to do almost anything. Now, researchers say they've figured out the single most effective thing that wealthy parents do for their children.
Look around your neighborhood
It's the kind of thing that can be hard to replicate if you don't have lots of money, although it's not impossible. According to this new study, it's that the wealthiest people make sure to live within the same neighborhoods as other wealthy people.
Making your neighborhood your priority has some significant ramifications. For one, since United States schools are generally funded on a local level, it means the kids in the neighborhoods of the well-to-do have access to the best education money can buy--from pre-kindergarten on.
That in turn guarantees that their kids will grow up to have greater success and wealth than their peers who don't have the same advantages, according to the study, which was published in the journal American Sociological Review.
"Buying a neighborhood is probably one of the most important things you can do for your kid," Ann Owens, a sociologist at the University of Southern California and an author of the study, told The Washington Post, which reported on her work. "There's mixed evidence on whether buying all this other stuff matters too. But buying a neighborhood basically provides huge advantages."
Interestingly, Owens actually came at this question from another angle. She was studying why income segregation (the notion that rich people live with other rich people, while poorer people live with other poorer people) has grown, and recognized that segregation is actually greatest among families with children.
Why? Because families with children are paying attention to things like how good the local schools are--and thus making their housing choices accordingly.
I know that seems like a bit of common sense, but when you realize which specific advantage the wealthy want for their kids--to grow up in wealthier communities--it makes it easier to replicate that advantage even if you don't have quite as much money.
It means being willing to accept living in a smaller or less luxurious home, if it means being in a more affluent area. Maybe you've heard the classic real estate advice: "Buy the smallest home in the nicest neighborhood you can afford."
Granted, this touches on much bigger questions about what kind of society we want to live in at large. But if you're making decisions on the basis of what's best for your children, it seems crazy not to at least pay attention to how the wealthy decide where to live--and why.