Sunday, August 31, 2003

How to Be Rich

Don't have siblings. And go to church.

So says this Wash. Post. article describing a couple of new studies:
Observant but tactless people occasionally ask me: If you're so smart, why aren't you rich? After reading two new papers by Ohio State University sociologist Lisa A. Keister, I now know why.

I'm not an only child. And I don't go to church regularly.

Keister, an expert on how families accumulate wealth, has found that having brothers or sisters is likely to cost you money over the course of your lifetime -- and not merely because you inherit a smaller slice of the family fortune. On the other hand, attending religious services (regardless of your religion) seems to be positively associated with acquiring wealth, holding constant the other factors that typically influence net worth.

In the latest issue of Demography, Keister reports that every additional brother or sister significantly diminishes an individual's total accumulated assets as an adult. She found that people with one sibling have, on average, a net worth of about $62,000. "Add another sibling, you go down to about $49,000, add another it goes down to $40,000, then to $24,000," she said. And pity those among us with seven or more siblings: Their average net worth is only $6,000. (My guess is that buying all those Christmas and birthday presents is what's keeping them light in the wallet.)
Maybe if you come from a family of practicing Catholics -- lots of children and unwavering church attendance -- it all balances out.


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