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
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
“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
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
“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.”
More scholar spotlights from this issue