When it comes to our careers, we all have better-than-average odds of following in our parents’ footsteps. But depending on what mom or dad do for a living, the odds are much higher for some of us.
According to a Quartz analysis of the General Social Survey, a biannual US sociological survey conducted by the University of Chicago, farmers and doctors are, by a huge margin, the most likely to have followed a parent into their profession, using the occupation definitions provided by the US Census.
In surveys from 1994 to 2016, 56% of farmers said they had a parent who shared their profession, versus the 4.7% survey average. This makes sense given that becoming a farmer is often a result of inheriting farmland. More surprising is that about 17% of doctors say they also had a doctor parent.
The chart below shows the 20 jobs, out of the 100 most common occupations, for which people in the US are most likely to have a parent who did the same. The estimates are based on a sample, so are inexact, but they are likely accurate to within 2 percentage points.
Truck drivers come out as the 10th most likely to have had a parent who also did that job. One of the main reasons for this is that there are a ton of truck drivers—more than four times as many as lawyers, for instance. So while truck drivers are more likely to be the child of a truck driver, it’s actually not a particularly hereditary job. For the typical profession, children are more than 10 times more likely to have a parent who does that job than the average person, but for truck drivers they are only five times more likely.
The most extreme jobs in terms of how much more likely you are to have parent who does that job than the average person are doctors, lawyers, and plumbers. Though only about 0.3% of all people surveyed had parents that were doctors, 17% of doctors surveyed said they had a parent who was a doctors. This makes them about 50 times more likely to have a doctor parent than the average person.
The chart below shows the 10 occupations for which people in the US are most unusually likely to have a parent with the same job. Again, the estimates are based on a sample, so not perfectly accurate. They are likely accurate to within 6 points.
Note: We used survey weights for our calculations. The results are slightly biased toward those years, like 2006, when more respondents were surveyed. The exact question respondents were asked about their parents was the following: “What kind of work did your [mother/father] normally do while you were growing up? That is, what was [her/his] job called?”