The Privilege of Pedigrees

17WIVES-blog427.No surprise — social status can matter when it comes to getting fabulous jobs. Now a sociologist, Lauren A. Rivera, has ‘proved’ it, in a new book, PedigreeHere is an excerpt from the publisher, Princeton University Press: “Displaying the ‘right stuff’ that elite employers are looking for entails considerable amounts of economic, social, and cultural resources on the part of applicants and their parents.” 

Those of us who have benefited from a generous amount of privilege are still curious to imagine the lives of women at the very top of the heap. To read Susan (Susie) Wilson’s memoir, Still Running, is to take a crash course in the lifelong advantages of those born wealthy. Wilson candidly acknowledges the advantages she had. And — unlike the Kardashians of this world — she put her privilege to excellent use, to advocate for many good causes, including honest sexuality education in the public schools. Wilson launches the Phyllis Marchand lectures at the Princeton Public Library on Tuesday, May 26.

Today, anthropologist Wednesday Martin scorched the pages of the New York Times with Poor Little Rich Women, a formal study of the wealthy moms of the Upper West Side, a “glittering, moneyed backwater.”

I was a pretty intense mother myself, entering the full-time work force only in my ’40s. But Martin spares little sympathy as she describes the mostly 30-somethings with advanced degrees from prestigious universities and business schools. They were married to rich, powerful men. . . exhaustively enriching their children’s lives by virtually every measure, then advocating for them anxiously and sometimes ruthlessly in the linked high-stakes games of social jockeying and school admissions.

Though Martin claims to have informed these women that she was studying them, I hope she moves out of the neighborhood before her book, Primates of Park Avenue, gets published.

(New York Times illustration by Malika Favre)

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