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Scholar spotlight: Corina Boar

Parental safety nets, pleasurable jobs

March 29, 2022


Alyssa Augustine Content Strategy and Engagement Supervisor
Corina Boar photo
CORINA BOAR, Assistant Professor of Economics, New York University
Scholar spotlight: Corina Boar

The research community at the Institute includes visiting scholars, consultants, economists, research analysts, and research assistants. These scholars bring a diversity of backgrounds, interests, and expertise to research that deepens our understanding of economic opportunity and inclusion as well as policies that work to improve both.

As a student in her native Romania, Corina Boar was advised by some of her instructors that a degree in economics was a useful way to secure a job. Her reasons were different.

“During my undergraduate studies, other professors talked about economics with passion and humility,” Boar said. “They instilled in me a curiosity that went beyond the practical aspects of economics that are needed to get a job.”

Boar’s research interests as an economist were influenced by a later conversation with her father. She mentioned that earning a Ph.D. typically takes longer than five years—the amount of time her program offered funding. Her final year would have to be paid out-of-pocket.

“People talk a lot about equality of opportunity, but I have an interest in equality of well-being and how that intersects with economic outcomes.”

“I’ll set some money aside,” her father said. And that was that.

Recognizing her own freedom to pursue her passion prompted a research question: In what ways do parents affect their children’s labor market outcomes? Boar’s research demonstrates that people with higher-income parents are literally able to afford jobs that people from lower-income families cannot.

High-income parents tend to beget high-income children. However, there are also nonmonetary benefits of some occupations that children of wealthy parents can trade off against a higher income.

“When you choose your career, you’re going to try to balance two things: how much money I make versus how much I like my job,” said Boar. With co-author Danial Lashkari, Boar finds children of rich parents are more likely to pursue jobs with high “intrinsic quality.” These have higher levels of autonomy, respect, and control, and require less physical effort. Occupations high on intrinsic value include post-secondary teacher, architect, writer, artist, entertainer, and athlete.

With family wealth as a backstop, children have the freedom to make less money but be happier in their work (or to gamble on, say, a long-shot acting career). Children from less privileged backgrounds face a bigger financial risk to follow a passion heedless of the paycheck.

Boar’s work takes on a challenge in traditional economics to recognize that utility means more than dollars and cents and to create models in which people respond to nonmonetary incentives.

“People talk a lot about equality of opportunity, but I have an interest in equality of well-being and how that intersects with economic outcomes,” said Boar. “Your chances of becoming what you want to become shouldn’t depend on how rich your family is.”

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Alyssa Augustine
Content Strategy and Engagement Supervisor

Alyssa Augustine oversees social media and digital engagement, leads the Bank's content strategy, and manages media relations for President Neel Kashkari and other Bank leaders. An experienced TV journalist, Alyssa also contributes articles to the Bank's website and publications.