If you really want to be successful—or, as the economists say, “improve your socioeconomic status”, then the best thing you can do is go to a prestigious college. At any price. It doesn't matter which one. Only the high level of the university is important.
Do not be afraid that it will be difficult for you in a good university.
You don't have to study well!
High exam scores are not a guarantee of success. Your goal is to make friends with rich classmates. Not "smart", not "beautiful", not "star". Namely, the "rich". And that's all. Further, such friendship will take you through life, like an escalator going up.
This conclusion was reached by economist Raj Chetty (Harvard University) and his co-authors in the study Social capital I: measurement and associations with economic mobility, and Social capital II: determinants of economic connectivity , published in the world's leading scientific publication Nature in early August this year) .
Economist Dmitry Prokofiev comments on this study in his channel:
“Admittedly, the key conclusion of the study sounds more delicate than I stated it. But the meaning doesn't change - neither academic achievement, nor living in a good neighborhood, nor civic engagement (volunteering and all) will help you "move to a higher group in the income distribution."
And the high status of the family in itself will not help you climb the next rung of the social ladder. Only friendship, only hardcore.
But friendship is different, Raj Chetty might say. Just "a hundred friends" will not help you in any way - you need friends with millions in your pocket.
The more rich friends a poor person has, the more likely it is that this person, if not becoming rich, will at least raise his socioeconomic status.
To come to this conclusion, Chetty and his co-authors analyzed more than 20 billion “friendly couples.” To do this, they studied the data of more than 70 million social media users living in the United States, aged 25 to 44, with at least 100 friends - this is about 80% of the total population of the country in this age group.
The researchers calculated the socioeconomic status for each participant in the sample, and compared it with the similar status of his friends. It is clear that to a greater extent "the poor are friends with the poor, the rich - with the rich." Among the friends of the top 10%, a third belongs to the same social stratum as themselves, and another fifth is only slightly inferior to them in terms of income. The chance for a poor man to befriend a rich man is 1.6%.
Accordingly, beggars are friends with beggars - for a person from the "bottom 10%" in terms of income - 40% of his friends are as poor as he is.
But what happens if the poor have wealthy friends? He will almost automatically be in a higher income group. And the rise will be fast. Increasing the share of "wealthier" friends in your circle from 25% to 50% will move you up the income ladder by 8.2 percentage points - i.e. will drag you to another social group. Why? In short, surrounded by wealthy friends, you are more likely to be offered a better job - for starters. And then one thing starts to cling to another ...
Scientifically speaking, “economic connectedness,” defined as the proportion of friends with high socioeconomic status among people with low socioeconomic status, is one of the strongest predictors of upward economic mobility (that is, the chance to move up in income levels).
And speaking humanly, having rich friends is the main chance for you to become rich yourself. And there are no other chances, in general. Rather, they are statistically insignificant.
And what does the “university” have to do with it, in which one must enter at any cost? Given that the “university” is practically the only place where the “rich” are ready not only to communicate with the “poor”, but also partially let them into their circle, subject to a number of conditions, Raj Chetty answers.
All other key points where people cross paths, communicate and make friends, such as: "high school", "place of work", "places of leisure", "church", "places of residence (neighbors)" - as platforms for friendship " rich" and "poor" - do not work.
Of course, the "poor" will be allowed into bars and sports grounds, but, in fact, in such "spaces for communication" there is the most severe segregation. Yes, the rich will be next to the poor, they will work out on neighboring simulators and sit at neighboring tables, they will smile at the poor and even talk with them, their children will play nearby, but ... there will be no friendship between the rich and the poor. Only with equal status. For the lower ones there will be polite smiles, but ... nothing more.
True, "high school" and "place of work" in terms of the chance to make a friend from a higher social class is still so-and-so, but simply living next door to the rich will not help the poor to get into his circle of friends and friends.
In a good (!) university - yes, the poor have a chance to find a rich friend. And even a few, the interaction with which will pull him up. In all other places of communication, this is possible only under the condition of some special efforts of the external environment - if for some reason some high-status person undertakes to introduce the poor into the circle of other high-status people. But it is not a fact that he will succeed, although Raj Chetty also cites such positive statistics.
Maybe the rich do not want to be friends with the poor, because they are subconsciously afraid of possible competition for their warm places with the "hungry and daring"? No, "this elevator does not go down." Raj Chetty proves that on average, the “rich” don’t lose anything from friendship with the “poor”. Higher economic connectedness primarily pulls people from groups with lower socioeconomic status upwards, but has little effect on the position of people from the upper strata of society and does not threaten their status in any way. So much social and financial capital has been accumulated "above" that the rich can share it without harming themselves - if there is a desire. But this desire does not always arise among the rich.
Why is Chetty's study important? It calls into question most of the social programs aimed at “overcoming inequality”. You can spend all you want on desks and textbooks for ghetto kids, but that won't help them succeed. And moving "to a good area" will not help. And cramming textbooks - too, if it does not lead you to the audience of a prestigious university.
And if you deliberately mix social groups? Build affordable housing for the poor in "good neighborhoods", create "new public spaces"? In itself, this is not a bad thing, but it will still not help to eliminate the “bias in friendship” factor, situations where, even with the possibility of contacts, people still prefer to be friends with those close in status. Chetty and his colleagues showed that the “friendship bias” factor does not work only in universities – and only there the opportunity to make friends with the rich can give the poor a chance to succeed.
But doesn't the chance of success in life depend on the status of the family, you ask? Yes, this is important, economists will answer, but it’s about going further than your parents in your career! To do this, you will need not only family friendships with the rich, but also your own, and in this case, they are most likely created in educational institutions.
Chetty's conclusions, of course, hit the business of any instructors in social mountaineering. To make a career without the friendly support of wealthy classmates, you most likely will not succeed. And if someone claims that he did without such help, then most likely he is misinforming you. You just don't know his status friends.
And even if you manage to write a bestseller, win the lottery, win the talent show, the rich will still not consider you a person. For them, you will remain a person of a different sort, even though talented, even if with money.
So what if I didn’t manage to get into a prestigious university and make rich friends there, I won’t have a chance to succeed in life, you ask? Most likely not, the author of the Social Capital study might say. You are out of luck in this life.
Network analyst Alexander Saigin adds another, obvious way to "break out":
“In fact, two paths to the top open at the university: not only friendship, but also a successful marriage. I have seen several such stories, when in this way people sharply raised their social status.
But here's what I would like to draw your attention to. Still, the presence of mental abilities is important in such changed conditions. Because the social status acquired in this way is also quickly lost if you do everything wrong. And one moment. The deeper from a deeper bottom and the higher a person rises, the less he is ready to remember about this very bottom and will most actively contribute so that no one else passes through his path in its perimeter. My favorite story on this subject is about one very cool business woman today, who became so thanks to her husband. She herself was in the “marginal strata” in her youth, and a successful marriage gave her great economic, and then political capital. So, when her son liked a beautiful girl from a very simple family, her mother very harshly stopped these relationships, declaring that these people are no match for us and in general we need to stay as far away from such people as possible, or have only working relationships. Well, or have fun, if you like, but in no case should you let them into your circle..."