Sunday, June 23, 2013

Will summer camp make my kids rich?

Paul Krugman, commenting on my recent article, thinks it is noteworthy that the rich have increased their spending on child enrichment programs.  To me, that is not a surprise.  The incomes of the rich have risen, and this category of spending, like many others, has a positive income elasticity.

I am a parent of three, and as far as I know, Paul does not have any children.  So I have probably spent a lot more on this category than he has.  And I can report that much of it is consumption, not investment.

A book I probably should have cited in my article is Judith Harris's The Nurture Assumption.  The main thesis of this great book is that, beyond genes, parents matter far less than most people think.  Raising three children has made me appreciate Harris's conclusion.  It is frustrating how little influence we parents have.

I have a friend whose job it is to advise families of extreme wealth.  She is often asked how to raise successful children who know they are going to inherit gobs of money.  It is all too common to see kids raised in this environment becoming ne'er do wells.  Her advice: Make sure they get a summer job.  Rather than spending money on enrichment activities, have them learn what it is like to earn a living.