Sunday, June 11, 2006

My Family's Flatware

After reading a previous post about my educational history, Dennis Mangan writes, "One has the distinct impression that Professor Mankiw was born with an academic silver spoon in his mouth." I am not quite sure what that means, but in light of other bloggers' recent interest in class autobiography, let me offer the curious a few facts about my family and early life.

My four grandparents immigrated to the United States from Ukraine almost a century ago. None of them had more than a fourth-grade education. My mother was born and raised in Trenton, N.J., my father in Bayonne, N.J., in immigrant communities. Both finished high school, but neither had the opportunity to continue on to college. When I was growing up, my parents sensed that I was languishing in the public schools. (Halfway through second or third grade, the teacher called in my mother to tell her the results of a standardized aptitude test: "Greg did well. We were very surprised.") My parents made what must have been a significant financial sacrifice for them to send me to a good private school, where most of the other kids were from families higher up the socioeconomic ladder (doctors, lawyers, etc). Being reasonably successful at that school got me into Princeton (and also Yale, Stanford, and MIT, but not, alas, my first choice, Harvard, which wait-listed me). The rest of the story is told in the previous post.