Nepotism and wealth go together according to a study published in the Journal of Labor Economics. The researchers found that 68 percent of the sons of top-percentile income earners have at some point by the time they’re age 33 taken a job at a firm their father also worked. That’s significantly higher than the 55 percent rate for the sons of the second-highest percentile of earners and the 40 percent average for all income levels. Though the data was limited to Canadian males, the researchers were able to point to several factors that could be at play, some nepotistic and some not. While high earners tend to be self-employed or at least tend to hold sway over hiring decisions at their companies, the pattern could also involve “the formation of values and preferences” — basically, that fathers tend to raise kids who would fit into their companies well. Whichever hypotheses turn out to be the most important, one of the study’s authors, Miles Corak of the University of Ottawa, thinks it proves that something other than meritocracy is at work. He writes on his blog:
If the members of the top 1 percent are there because of connections or political power—rather than by the force of their talent, energy, and motivation—then we should be rightly critical about claims that they merit their fortunes, and question the contribution they make to economic productivity.