Family Wealth and the Class Ceiling: The Propulsive Power of The Bank of Mum and Dad

In an article in Sociology, Maren Toft and Sam Friedman demonstrate the considerable effect parental wealth has on economic returns for those in the very highest income-earning positions in Norway.

Cover of the journal Sociology


In this article we demonstrate that those from working-class backgrounds face a powerful ‘class ceiling’ in elite occupations. Examining how class origin shapes economic returns in the Norwegian upper class (3.8% of the population), we first find that the income advantage enjoyed by those from privileged backgrounds increases sharply as they ascend the income distribution in both elite business and cultural fields. Second, we show that those from economically upper-class backgrounds enjoy the highest pay advantage in all upper-class destinations. Finally, we demonstrate the profound propulsive power provided by parental wealth. Our results indicate that this is the most important single driver of the class-origin income gap in virtually every area of the Norwegian upper class. These findings move forward an emerging literature on class-origin pay gaps beyond mean estimates to reveal the distinct ‘pay-off’ to class privilege in the very highest income-earning positions.

Read the article in Sociology.

Published June 11, 2020 4:28 PM - Last modified June 11, 2020 4:29 PM