Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek.
My parents were refugees from Siberian labor camps.
I grew up in a 630-square-foot house that contained six people.
I confess I didn't like all of them.
My parents, however, would have sacrificed their last penny and breath to see their kids succeed. (Success meant becoming a priest or a doctor, but let's not dwell on too many details.)
Most parents, indeed, want their kids to do well. (Especially if it means the kids will have the money to look after the parents when they're old.)
Are there really consistently effective methods, though, that will propel your kids to great success? Greater success than their parents', that is?
Yes, you can pay a crooked intermediary $500,000 to get your kids into the likes of USC and Georgetown. That method has, though, been recently discredited.
I was moved to contemplation, though, by a new study that suggested a considerable link between something seemingly simple and kids' future success.
Please don't be put off by the dry title of the study: "The Socioecological Psychology of Upward Social Mobility."
Researchers from Columbia University, the University of Virginia, and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign wanted to learn why some cities seem to make it easier for poorer kids to get ahead than do other cities.
Their conclusion might make you think about the sort of city you wished you lived in, rather the one that you do:
We identified the "walkability" of a city, how easy it is to get things done without a car, as a key factor in determining the upward social mobility of its residents.
It's something that might feel intuitive only when you spend some time considering it.
The researchers dug into the tax data of more than nine million Americans. They looked at figures embracing 3.6 million Americans from the American Community Survey.
Then they reached these startling summations:
We showed that residents of walkable cities are less reliant on car ownership for employment and wages, significantly reducing 1 barrier to upward mobility. Additionally, in 2 studies, including 1 preregistered study (1,827 Americans; 1,466 Koreans), we found that people living in more walkable neighborhoods felt a greater sense of belonging to their communities, which is associated with actual changes in individual social class.
You might think that walkability in itself might imply many other social factors.
These researchers, however, believe they saw something very clear:
The more walkable an area is (as indexed by Walkscore.com), the more likely Americans whose parents were in the lowest income quintile are to have reached the highest income quintile by their 30s. This relationship holds above and beyond factors previously used to explain upward mobility, factors such as income inequality and social capital, and is robust to various political, economic, and demographic controls; to alternate specifications of upward mobility; and to potentially unspecified third variables.
When you live in a walkable community, you're likely to be healthier and to encounter a better chance of finding a more meaningful job.
Cars are expensive. Making connections by walking to places is much cheaper.
Of course, one important aspect is personal safety. America's sad and counterproductive obsession with guns has created fear rather than assuaged it. It's infused enmity, rather than fostered community.
A personal view, that.
Intuitively, though, these findings make human sense.
Perhaps those in power might one day act upon them.
In the meantime, if you can move with your kids to a walkable city, it might be a good idea.
You never know what -- or who -- they might become.