NZ Herald 18 January 2012
New Zealand researchers have put hard numbers to the adage that success breeds success – and failure breeds failure. A long-term study of 1265 children born in Christchurch in 1977 has found that those whose families were poor in their first 10 years of life earned about $20,000 a year less by the age of 30 than those who grew up in rich families. Those from poor families were more likely to leave school without qualifications, have babies before they were 20, commit crimes, go on welfare and have addiction and other mental health problems in adulthood. Most of these effects were explained by factors which tended to vary in line with family incomes, such as parents’ education, addictions, criminality and marital conflict and breakup, and the children’s own intelligence.
“It could be that competent, bright families transmit their skills to their children and also earn higher incomes. It could also be that being bred in a high-income family provides children with role models and resources for both educational achievement and career success.”
Professor Fergusson said the study showed that income inequality and behavioural issues, such as parents’ addictions, both had to be tackled to fix social problems. “For example, increasing the income of substance-using parents may be counter-productive since it will give them more access to purchasing alcohol or drugs,” he said.