This Is Where The Small Car Rides Away And The 9.9 Percent Take Over

Richard Herriott at DrivenToWrite has a mildly caustic piece up regarding FCA’s — that’s FIAT’s to you non-automotive-space normies — decision to abandon its traditional focus on small cars. Citing fears that small cars are becoming “commoditized”, FCA will shift the majority of its development, engineering, and production efforts to vehicles from brands like Maserati and Alfa Romeo, which face no danger of commoditization because traditionally commodities are known to be in more or less constant demand.

Mr. Herriott worries that FCA is going to lose what we’d call a “customer pipeline” as a result of this. He points out, quite rightly, that buyers are statistically loyal to the last brand they’ve purchased and that FCA’s lack of small-car development will cost it customers for its large-car lineup. Twenty years ago, or even ten years ago, I would have agreed with him. Today, however, we live in the world of the 9.9 percent.

“In America, the game is half over once you’ve selected your parents.” The Atlantic is catching flak and praise in nearly equal measure for a new piece on the 9.9 percent. It’s a catchy way of saying “top ten percent”, but it’s also a way to signify that the game has changed. Today’s 9.9 percent is remarkably wealthy; you’d need over $1.2 million in net worth to make it in. Admittedly, that includes both home equity and the “401(k) millionaires”; if I had bought a house, any house, in California back in 2001 rather than put down roots in Ohio, I’d be comfortably above the cutoff for this exclusive club. Still, it’s sobering to think that one out of ten Americans is somewhat more than a millionaire.

Today’s 9.9 Percent have institutionalized the process of handing down their status to their children and grandchildren. In Matthew Stewart’s article, he humblebrags about spending ten thousand dollars — almost exactly the median net worth of African-American families — on a college counselor. He discusses the fabled “SAT whisperer” who can make your sprog’s dreams of a Yale admission come true.

We 9.9 percenters live in safer neighborhoods, go to better schools, have shorter commutes, receive higher-quality health care, and, when circumstances require, serve time in better prisons. We also have more friends—the kind of friends who will introduce us to new clients or line up great internships for our kids.
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These special forms of wealth offer the further advantages that they are both harder to emulate and safer to brag about than high income alone. Our class walks around in the jeans and T‑shirts inherited from our supposedly humble beginnings. We prefer to signal our status by talking about our organically nourished bodies, the awe-inspiring feats of our offspring, and the ecological correctness of our neighborhoods. We have figured out how to launder our money through higher virtues.
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Most important of all, we have learned how to pass all of these advantages down to our children. In America today, the single best predictor of whether an individual will get married, stay married, pursue advanced education, live in a good neighborhood, have an extensive social network, and experience good health is the performance of his or her parents on those same metrics.

Most critically, the 9.9 Percent feels itself to be the result of a meritocracy. They didn’t merely inherit their wealth in the manner of the rakish figures found in the pages of Victorian novels. No, they earned it. True, they might have earned it because they were legacy-admitted into a prestigious university then offered an internship at Goldman Sachs by their father’s weekend doubles partner — but they earned it nonetheless.

Now here’s where it gets fascinating. You won’t find this assertion in the pages of The Atlantic, but it’s deeply, thoroughly, and offensively true: The 9.9 Percent has assured its perpetuity through the deliberate destruction of America’s true and authentic meritocracy. Consider, if you will, the plight of the Asian-American student:

Asian-Americans have the lowest acceptance rate for each SAT test score bracket, having to score on average approximately 140 point higher than a White student, 270 points higher than a Hispanic student and 450 points higher than a Black student on the SAT.

Keep in mind that the 75th percentile SAT score for Harvard is 1600, which is a perfect score. It has been shown again and again that Harvard, and other schools, practice active racial discrimination by purposely denying Asian-Americans admission in order to admit more Black and Hispanic students.

This discrimination also hurts white kids, but the 9.9 Percent, who are overwhelmingly white, have other methods to get their kids through the door. Legacies, SAT whisperers, fearsome high school resumes built through privately awarded internships and five-figure-cost extra-curriculars. The only white kids who are kept out of Harvard by race discrimination are lower-class and middle-class white kids who don’t have any connections.

“Jack, you idiot.” I can hear you now. “The 9.9 Percent aren’t solidifying their position by forcibly diversifying college admissions — they are just inviting a more diverse group to their party!” Alright, I see where you’re coming from. The only problem is that you’re wrong. SAT scores are an ironclad predictor of future success and there is no adjustment for race in the results. Which is to say that there is no evidence that white kids with a 1400 SAT do as well after college as Asian kids with a 1550 SAT. Rather, they tend to perform like Asian kids with a 1400 SAT.

If American colleges today did their admissions in a truly merit-based fashion, the top schools would be overwhelmingly composed of Asian-Americans and white people outside the 9.9 Percent. The graduates of those schools would then force their way into the 9.9 Percent, displacing the current memebers. After all, that’s how those current members got where they are today. It’s no accident that the racial and socio-economic composition of the 9.9 Percent today looks suspiciously like the racial and socio-economic composition of Harvard’s Baby Boomer classes. Those people figured out how to rig the game for their kids, who are now rigging it even further on behalf of their kids.

In other words, today’s top colleges consist of three kinds of people:

* The children of the 9.9 Percent;
* A carefully curated selection of people who are statistically unlikely to threaten the existing composition of the 9.9 Percent;
* The minimum possible number of threatening outgroup achievers, regardless of race.

Maybe you’d like to see it in a graphic or three:

Isn’t there something creepy about the way all of the Ivy League admissions rates for Asian-American students have settled at a single level, regardless of student population? It looks like collusion to me — or maybe it’s just a situation where everybody looked at the numbers separately and happened to come to identical conclusions.

The game is rigged to ensure that the children of the 9.9 Percent don’t have to face unfettered competition from students who are far brighter and more accomplished than they are. The SAT scores, and the academic qualifications, of the non-legacy students are deliberately reduced to match those of the legacy students. This prevents young William and Ashley from having to sit in a classroom with a bunch of ultra-bright Asian-American kids. It is handicapping Harrison Bergeron style. We pretend that we are offering a “hand up” to people who have suffered discrimination, but the real purpose is to enshrine the existing order of things.

What happens to all those outstanding kids, be they Asian-American or not, who are bounced out of the Ivy League so as not to make their betters uncomfortable? They go to state schools, to safety schools, and so on, and so forth. And when they get out of school, they are handicapped by their second-rate degree and lack of connections. They take whatever jobs they can get. A few of them will rise to join the 9.9 Percent, but not nearly as many as you would have if schools didn’t practice racial discrimination.

It’s institutional molasses poured into the gears of social mobility. And what happens to all of those minorities who are admitted into the Ivy League even though they are 450 SAT points down on the Asian-American kids? The answer is back in the Atlantic piece:

According to a Pew Research Center analysis, African Americans represent 1.9 percent of the top 10th of households in wealth; Hispanics, 2.4 percent; and all other minorities, including Asian and multiracial individuals, 8.8 percent—even though those groups together account for 35 percent of the total population.

In other words, even though the Ivy League has been practicing race-based admissions for more than fifty years, only one in twenty 9.9 Percenters is Black or Hispanic. This year’s Harvard class is “majority-minority”. Will the 9.9 Percent of the year 2060 be “majority-minority”? You know the answer to that. The system is working exactly the way it was designed to work. Having climbed their way to the top, the 9.9 Percent are pulling up the ladders behind them. It will become harder and harder to join their ranks.

You’ve suffered along with this class-war diatribe for 1,450 words. What does it have to do with small cars? Why, it’s obvious, to me at least. Sergio Marchionne is right. The market for small cars is going to vanish. The reason is simple. A society with zero socio-economic mobility doesn’t need small cars, particularly not when a raft of legislative and business decisions has made them almost as expensive as their larger siblings. The 9.9 Percent will buy the new cars; they’re almost the only people who buy new cars now. The 90.1 Percent will buy those cars once their superiors are done with them. Seriously. If you live in an area where it’s possible to look at poor people, look at what they’re driving. They aren’t in new Sonics or Accents. They are driving used Explorers and Odysseys, which were the chosen vehicles of the 9.9 Percent at the time. That’s the future. More of that.

By the same token, the idea of “keeping the customer his whole life” through a broad model range is ridiculous in a world where people don’t “grow” financially through a brand. The child of the 9.9 Percent goes directly from driving his mother’s old Lexus RX350 to driving a new Lexus RX350 of his own. He isn’t launched into the world on his own to survive on his wits. He is stage-managed into success by his parents.

You can look at my own family for a modern example of this. We are far from wealthy, but when my son turns 16 he’ll probably be the owner of an old Accord Coupe (for everyday use) and a Porsche 911 (for those special occasions). The Accord will carry him through college or welding school or whatever he wants to do career-wise, at which point I’ll probably have another car to give him. When he’s thirty, he will be able to buy himself a new car. At no point in this story is he a customer for a small Fiat that would lead him into bigger Fiats.

His East Coast cousins, who are very much a part of the 9.9 Percent, will have similar experiences only it will be with Mercedes S-Classes and GL-Class wagons. And they have legacy admissions set up for major schools, with generous financial endowments to accompany their arrivals.

The children of our neighbors, who are generally just white kids of middling accomplishment? They’ll go to state schools and buy used cars their whole lives, the same way their parents did and do. None of them would be likely to score a 1600 SAT, and even if they did, where’s the place for them in Ivy League classes that have no slots for white Midwestern kids period point blank?

Some of you will point out that you know exceptions to these rules, but that’s all they are — exceptions. “Last year, Penn and Duke rejected 60 percent of the class valedictorians who applied.” Duke took two students from West Virginia last year. They took 166 from New York and 144 from California. Go look at a map of the United States and tell me where Duke is.

The brand-new small car is, and always has been, a product aimed at the middle class. It’s a product based on hope. You buy a new Cavalier or Civic because your prospects are moderately bright now and likely to become brighter later. Once the middle class disappears, it will be time for the small car to ride away into the sunset. FCA’s famous sweater-wearing leader is right. He’s placing his bets on the 9.9 Percent. He’s right to do so. They are going to win. Because the game is rigged. They know the game is rigged. They’re the ones who rigged it.

140 Replies to “This Is Where The Small Car Rides Away And The 9.9 Percent Take Over”

  1. everybodyhatesscott

    Asian-Americans have the lowest acceptance rate for each SAT test score bracket, having to score on average approximately 140 point higher than a White student, 270 points higher than a Hispanic student and 450 points higher than a Black student on the SAT.

    It’s moderately annoying they do this for undergrad but undergrad is mostly worthless these days unless it’s for STEM or a degree you have to have college to pass a certification test for (CPA, BAR and both of those pretty much require grad school) but then you realize they do the same shit for Med School. Does anybody want an Affirmative action doctor?

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-5754797/Plastic-surgeon-filmed-videos-dancing-singing-surgeries.html

    A basic awareness of statistics and some thought crime could’ve saved this woman a lifetimes worth of trouble. But it’s mean to notice people aren’t held to the same standards.

    Reply
    • Steve

      You may have graduated with only a bachelor’s in sociology from Harvard, but you still graduated from Harvard. The connections you make going to an Ivy-League school are much more likely to get you into the 9.9% than the ones you make at University or State.

      Reply
      • Rick T.

        It’s who you know as much as what you know at the very least. Your accounting courses at Harvard aren’t going to be significantly different than the ones you would take at State. On the other hand, the recruiters and classmates will be.

        Reply
      • yamahog

        Perhaps, but I’d wager that marrying another ivory leaguer is probably more relevant than anything else.

        Here are mid career salaries by school:
        https://www.payscale.com/college-salary-report/bachelors?page=101

        The more STEM-y the school, the higher the starting salary. But the midcareer salaries don’t strike me as that impressive (beyond the fact that they’re averages). Do you think the big-10s have more alumni making 150k+/yr than Harvard/Yale/Princeton? Remember, only half of Harvard graduates earn more than 150k/yr, UW-Madison takes at least 8,000 freshmen/yr, Harvard takes ~1,600.

        Sure, people can save 1MM on a 150k/yr salary but these are the same people who go on vacations and live in expensive, high-tax areas, I’d bet that the 9.9%-ers have some inheritance and they more or less spend everything they earn. They just have different lifesytles and more favorable risk profiles.

        JB is right that small car sales are declining and the 90% lives on what the 9.9% doesn’t want anymore but I don’t really see why that’s a bad thing? I guess it’s bad to the degree it limits choice/freedom, but I had ~10k to buy a car a few years back and I could have purchased a new accent (maybe?) but a Lexus with 70k miles was available for the same price. Call it commerce or charity, but any system that makes such a fine automobile available at that price isn’t really The Enemy.

        My dumb take is that the only thing that’s really gone awry in the system is the cost of healthcare, housing, college education, and to some degree food. Stagnant wages wouldn’t be such a bummer if the cost of health care and housing didn’t go up by 5%+/yr.

        Reply
    • yamahog

      I certainly don’t, but to some degree affirmative action makes it easy to find good doctors. Look for Jewish and Asian last names and the average quality decreases monotonically with age.

      Young black trans female doctor? No thanks.

      Reply
  2. S2k Chris

    I think there’s some confusion around the 9.9% and the 1% in this piece. For one, the focus on Harvard (which I’ll assume extends to all of the Ivies). ivycoach.com tells me that the Ivy class of 2021 is about 14,500 students. Scale that to a generation (20 years) and you’re at about 290k students. Yet the 9.9% is around 30M people, or 13M households in rough numbers. And then we get to the hand-me-down S-Classes and the like, which are not the world of people with a NW of 1.2M including their home.

    You may be discussing situations that affect the tip top of the 9.9%, but not of things affecting the whole group. You could make a strong argument that you have to be a member of the top 9.9% to send your kid to ANY private college without debt, given a price tag exceeding $250k all in.

    Reply
    • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

      That’s why I included Duke at the end; it’s an “Ivy-Plus”.

      It’s turtles all the way down.

      Reply
  3. Arbuckle

    Haven’t those fancy schools you listed always been the domain of the wealthy and well-connected though?

    The middle class isn’t dead because they suddenly can’t get into Harvard & Yale. It’s dead because the middle class jobs are gone and (vastly under reported) inflation has out paced wages.

    I also think Sergio’s decision has more to do with Europe and South America than the US, but I get that the situation in those two regions is a whole other post.

    Reply
    • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

      I’m not necessarily talking about the death of the middle class here; it’s class mobility that affects the sales of new small cars.

      The small car is the traditional purchase of the “going somewhere” person who is moving from lower-class or lower-middle-class into the middle class. He doesn’t have a car from his parents because his parents can’t afford to give him a car.

      Reply
  4. John C.

    Asians are far over represented at the ivy league and it is not good for the colleges or the country. Remember the numbers are downplayed by local Asian-Americans and Asian from China and South Korea being counted separately. The schools could easily fill their entire student body with Asians with perfect SAT scores. Most of these will not participate on campus and will not donate after graduation. The schools would be crazy to do that. I know Asians are trying to pick up from the Jewish their old beef about needing higher scores than Wasps. The schools were right about that as well. A school cannot survive with just one demographic. If otherwise worthy young people are punished, so be it. There are plenty of decent second rung schools.

    On the small cars, I still hope that there will be enough of a economic recovery that state school grads get good jobs post graduation in smaller cities where car ownership is required. Those cities need them and their success. It may be useful to help that along by a new cash for clunkers that requires purchase of an economical new domestic, while there still are some. It really raises the value of used cars which then should spill over into even more entry level new cars.

    Reply
    • Ronnie Schreiber

      I know Asians are trying to pick up from the Jewish their old beef about needing higher scores than Wasps. The schools were right about that as well. A school cannot survive with just one demographic.

      So you’re saying that Cornell’s veterinary school was justified in rejecting my father’s application in 1946 explicitly because “we have enough of your kind here already”?

      When the Ivy League had limits on the number of Jewish students they admitted, Jews were far from over-represented on those campuses.

      Actually, one would think that a school could survive with just one demographic, people who are smart regardless of their ethnicity or race.

      Reply
      • John C.

        Jews were 2 to 3 per cent of the country so for an ivy league school to be say 10 times that, yes the Jews were over represented. It would not be useful for a school to become a de facto Jewish. Not for the reputation of the school or for the overrepresented Jewish students that were already there on merit. When my brother attended Cornell in the late 70s the Jewish students were close to 50 percent. When my nephew graduated Cornell in 2012, the Asians were a majority. Neither situation is healthy. When my mother went in the late 40s, it was the spoiled kids of the wealthy that it was designed for.

        That said, there is no reason for the school to have been rude to your father. My mother’s acceptance letter is a family heirloom.

        Reply
        • Ronnie Schreiber

          Why isn’t it healthy to have the smartest students, regardless of demographics?

          Why would the reputation of a school or its students suffer because it had a high Jewish student population? As a point of historical fact, it was the decision of the Ivies after WWII to end their Jewish quotas (though it appears that Harvard and others still restrained Jewish enrollment to some extent into the 1960s) that transformed them from schools for the elite to intellectually elite institutions.

          The fact that Asians and Jews do well in hierarchies of competency is likely related to IQ.

          Wouldn’t you want your kids to compete with the brightest students?

          Reply
          • John C.

            I want my daughter to so her best, which would be achieving far beyond me.

            I agree that not cheated on or gamed SAT is accurate. I have no doubt that certain ethnicities will be overrepresented at the high end of tests .And vise versa.

            Where we might disagree is that if say Cornell and Brown had equal vet programs but Brown limited Jewish and Asian admissions to 10 percent each, far beyond USA representation. Cornell only said we esspecially love Asians and Jews and will take as many as qualify that your Jewish grandparents would tell your father only to apply to Brown so as not to be stigmatized. I can not see how it benefits anybody to become a trade school for an ethnicity

          • rambo furum

            Jews are heavily overrepresented in the Ivy League because of admissions favoritism, if not absolute infiltration.
            From “The Myth of American Meritocracy” by Ron Unz:
            ” Different political blocs waged long battles for control of particular universities, and sudden large shifts in admissions rates occurred as these groups gained or lost influence within the university apparatus: Yale replaced its admissions staff in 1965 and the following year Jewish numbers nearly doubled.”
            Let’s not pretend that Jewish control of academia is not something straight out of the Frankfurt School or The Culture of Critique.
            And I’ll save you the response, which will surely be “Oy vey, what are you, an anti-semite?” The goyim know.

          • John C.

            Rambo there was a shift to more Jewish admissions when the SAT became more important, though my family history indicates that legacy still helps. If it was a successful conspiracy, the Asians would have been kept out. Among their nonparticipations on campus is anything political.

          • safe as milk

            “Why would the reputation of a school or its students suffer because it had a high Jewish student population?”

            because it encourages group think. if you don’t have a diverse group both culturally and economically in your institution, it will rarely be challenged with different perspectives. as someone who grew up and was educated in the exact environment that jack is describing, i will tell you it took years for me to deprogram myself and learn how to think. these institutions create as nassim taleb famously called them, “intellectuals yet idiots.”

          • Daniel J

            Ronnie,

            Many professors and administrators in academia firmly believe that college, especially in earning a four year degree, is as much about the experience as it is the education. This is why most schools try to be diverse and on some level, try to maintain a demographic that represents the “real world”. I would agree that certain universities should pride themselves in having the best and brightest over the most correct demographic. I don’t think Ivy league schools or even most state schools should be be those. Of course I have no statistics, but I’ve always felt that there are schools out there that truly provide a better education in certain areas than Ivy league schools, and maybe those schools should actually only get the best and brightest. Off the top of my head I’m thinking MIT and Stanford.

            The other issue in general, is if all schools took only the best and brightest, especially based on imperfect tests like the SAT or ACTs, we’d end up in some sort of caste system, which is a topic for another day.

            .

          • Ronnie Schreiber

            I can not see how it benefits anybody to become a trade school for an ethnicity

            You don’t seem to have a problem with that concept when the ethnicity in question is that of white, Anglo-Saxon Protestants.

            20%+ of Asian or Jewish students = trade school for an ethnicity
            60-80% WASP = an elite institution worthy of making the next generation of America’s ruling class.

            that your Jewish grandparents would tell your father only to apply to Brown so as not to be stigmatized

            Being known as school for smart Jews and Asians is a stigma?

            You just represent an earlier version of the 9.9%’s fake meritocracy. It didn’t matter whether they were smart or qualified, what mattered in terms of entre into America’s leadership was being born into the right families. It seems that you resent the intrusion of proles upon your class’ perceived territory.

          • Ronnie Schreiber

            And I’ll save you the response, which will surely be “Oy vey, what are you, an anti-semite?” The goyim know.

            If there weren’t any Jews, whom would you blame for you being a complete loser?

            Folks with Jews on the brain are something else.

            Anyone with genuinely intimate knowledge of the Jewish community would laugh at the notion of some kind of broad conspiracy among Jews, a fractious group if there ever was one. I’m sure you won’t believe me, what with me being a crafty Yid and all, but adherents (knowing and unknowing) of the Frankfurt School and the rabbis at the Kollel around the corner from my home see eye-to-eye on virtually nothing.

            The goyim know

            The rabbis teach that goyim in general indeed have wisdom (Eichah Rabbah 2:13). You, however, are an outstanding example of the Dunning-Kruger effect.

          • rambo furum

            Is the high IQ thing why Jews are hideously overrepresented in the pornography industry too? Or is the answer given by Al Goldstein (see his wikipedia entry) correct?

          • Ronnie Schreiber

            Is the high IQ thing why Jews are hideously overrepresented in the pornography industry too?

            You worried about your sister getting debauched by Ron Jeremy, brah? Once she’s had Jew, she won’t want to have you.

            Your favorite porn is likely interracial cuckold stuff from hubby’s POV. On second thought, maybe it’s some *BJCC that you’re salivating for. NTTAWWT.

            Lenny Bruce said Jews’ involvement in porn had something to do with the fact that Catholic priests are celibate. They shit but don’t fuck so to Goyim “shit” is worth 10 demerits and “fuck” is worth 90. Rabbis both shit and fuck so to Jews, both words are just worth 10 demerits, so to speak.

            In a more serious vein, one could argue that whereas Christianity teaches that sex is a concession (“better for a man to marry…”) to humans’ baser urges, Judaism is a bit more sex positive as the kids say, treating marital relations as a good thing unto itself.

            *Big Jewish Circumcised Cock

    • yamahog

      “If otherwise worthy young people are punished, so be it.”

      First, I disagree with the characterization that making admissions more difficult is tantamount to punishment. Punishment has an element of retribution, this isn’t retribution.

      And sure, “so be it”. Free association and whatnot. But we can at least demand consistency – these private universities are actually corporations and we expect that corporations don’t discriminate along certain protected dimensions (sex, religion, martial status, etc.) and the ivy leagues seem to be pretty flagrantly violating that. I’ll look to normies to decide whether racial discrimination is okay – if it’s not the Ivy League has to play ball, but if the Ivy League gets to keep Asians out, restaurants and malls should get to keep their least favorite races out too.

      Reply
      • CJinSD

        “I’ll look to normies to decide whether racial discrimination is okay – if it’s not the Ivy League has to play ball, but if the Ivy League gets to keep Asians out, restaurants and malls should get to keep their least favorite races out too.”

        You’ve completely redeemed yourself from the low you hit when you said it was okay for the majority of society to be fighting over cast-offs.

        Reply
        • yamahog

          When we’re using cars to quality of life, we must consider the condition of the cars. New small cars are more expensive than ever and used 9.9% cars are better than ever. The dirt people have more or less the same priorities as the 9.9% – safe, high seat height, AWD, heated seats and steering wheel, etc. it makes sense for the dirt people to buy the cars the 9.9% doesn’t want anymore.

          And car markets are pretty liquid and efficient enough in pricing. If the used 9.9% cars were worse for dirt people they wouldn’t buy them! They’d be in the cheapest new cars, not the profligate cars of the 9.9%. Go check out fake news Washington Post’s Appalachia poverty porn, it’s invariably about supposedly impoverished people who inexorably keep BOF SUVs running. If the Mitsubishi Mirage were a better car for the dirt people, the fake news Washington Post would feature packs of oxy addicts crammed in Mitsubishi mirages, reaving the countryside for cheap fixes and scraps.

          Reply
  5. Fred Lee

    I don’t have the spare hour and a half to read that entire article, but it seems to be implying that a net worth of $1M means something. That it’s exclusive. That it’s the result of an ivy league education, and an internship at daddy’s friend’s investment bank. That is ensures wealth for future generations of your spawn.

    You’d be surprised how many people are in that club. Well, probably not, since you already know it’s ~10%. You’d probably be surprised by /which/ 10%. Read The Millionaire Next Door. The reality is that those “9.9%” are regular Joes like you and me who drive a Honda Accord until the wheels fall off.

    It’s easy to vilify the investment bankers because “OMG BANKER!”, but I’d best the vast majority of that 9.9% are nothing like that. Probably state school educated, not Ivy League. Good solid job.. Moderately successful, sure. But not crazy successful (a million dollars isn’t what it used to be). Live well below their means. Unlike certain authors of this blog, they don’t sport thousand dollar watches and suits, nor a garage full of expensive cars.

    I’ll admit to being a 9.9%-er, probably a 5%-er or better for that matter. I’m an Engineer and went to a mid-west state school. Not far from Ohio in fact. I drive a used Nissan Leaf that cost me $12,000 and the outfit I wear every day to work costs less than $50. I’ve been saving 50% of my paycheck for the last 20 years. That’s how you become a 9.9%er. It has nothing to do with connections and daddy’s golfing buddies. At my job (a Fortune xxx engineering company) I’m /surrounded/ by people just like me, all of them millionaires. My ex-wife grep up in Nebraska on a farm and is worth millions because of hard work and a modest lifestyle. My girlfriend grew up poor in Idaho, went to community college and Boise State, and is worth about $2M. She drives a 12-year-old Nissan Sentra.

    Maybe once you move into the 1% it’s different. I don’t know, I doubt I’ll ever be there.

    To tie my diatribe back to small cars, few of the (many) millionaires I know drive a Lexus. Aspirational millionaires drive Lexuses and Porsches. But buying those cars is exactly why they’ll never break into the millionaire class. Because as soon as they have $60,000 in their pocket (or, far more likely, long before they have $60,000 in their pocket) they go and blow it all on a car they can’t afford. Like my auto-mechanic friend who has two Ducatis, a Mercedes, and two Jeeps. Oh, and a plethora of bicycles. He can’t afford any of that shit but it makes him look baller so he buys it anyway.

    I’d guess everyone in my family has a NW of well over $1M. Here are the primary cars among them: Nissan Leaf (me), Nissan Sentra (girlfriend), Miata (brother), Mazda3 (sis-in-law), Outback (sister), Nissan XTerra (Bro-in-law), Forester (mom), Dodge Dynasty (seriously… step-dad), Honda CRV (step-mom), Ford F-150 (dad). Not a luxury brand among them, and quite a few compact-ish cars.

    OK, post over. I’m going to go back to rigging the game in favor of my unborn spawn now.

    Reply
    • everybodyhatesscott

      Yeah, running back of the numbers calcs, Jack could easily be in the 10% if he invested his money into index funds instead of Guitars, cars, bikes, and fancy meals. The blog probably wouldn’t be nearly as interesting though.

      Reply
      • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

        Here’s a scary figure for you: For more than a decade of my life I spent an average of $6,000 a month just on buying cars and going racing.

        That’s a million and a half bucks now if I’d put it in the market instead.

        With that million and a half bucks I could… buy cars and go racing, only now instead of then! No, wait, I think that’s the wrong lesson to learn.

        This is the lesson I learned the first time I woke up in the ICU, and re-learned every time it happened afterwards: Compound interest may be guaranteed, but there is no guarantee you’ll be around to receive it.

        Reply
        • S

          Woman: Do you drink beer?
          Man: Yes.
          Woman: How many beers a day?
          Man: Usually about three.
          Woman: How much do you pay per beer?
          Man: $5.00 which includes a tip (this is where it gets scary!).
          Woman: And how long have you been drinking?
          Man: About 20 years, I suppose.
          Woman: So a beer costs $5 and you have three beers a day which puts your spending each month at $450. In one year, that would be approximately $5400, correct?
          Man: Sounds Correct.
          Woman: If in 1 year you spend $5400, not accounting for inflation, over the past 20 years puts your spending at about $108,000, correct?
          Man: Again, sounds about right.
          Woman: Do you know that if you didn’t drink so much beer, that money could have been put in a step-up interest savings account and after accounting for compound interest for the past 20 years, you could have now bought an airplane?
          Man: Could be true. Do you drink beer?
          Woman: No.
          Man: Where is your airplane?

          Reply
    • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

      This is probably worth a few different discussions, most of which would go something like this:

      * Saving a million-plus dollars and then dying is not the same thing as building and owning a foundation for generational wealth, as you point out.
      * If dying a million dollars in debt is indistinguishable from being a millionaire, then what is dying with two million bucks in the bank and a Nissan Sentra in your driveway indistinguishable from?
      * The “millionaires next door” aren’t as common as people always think, and the reason for this is easy to understand: if 9.9 percent of people saved every penny they made outside a simple life, the economy would power-dive into the ground.

      Reply
      • Fred Lee

        Asking the difference between being a millionaire and dying with a million dollars in debt is like asking the difference between having time while you’re alive, and having time when you’re dead.

        The difference is freedom.

        A millionaire with a modest standard of living can leave his job anytime he wants, and survive on a 6-figure safe withdrawal rate from his investable assets. And spend time while he’s alive biking and karting with his kid.

        Reply
        • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

          I want to believe that but my extensive surveys of human nature tell me that most rich-via-savings people go to their grave as miserable people.

          Or they finally “cash out” at 60-something only to discover that they are handcuffed by their age, their physical condition, and their habits.

          My father has been able to buy himself a new Ferrari for, oh, let’s say the last thirty years. Has he ever done it? No. Will he ever do it? No. By contrast, I bought Porsches I couldn’t really afford and drove them all over the country, having the time of my life, well before I was in sight of middle age.

          Dad told me, “You make your habits, and then your habits make you.” He was right, but maybe not in the way he intended. He meant that if I got in the habit of working hard, I would become successful from hard work. What I learned from watching him is that you don’t live your life according to one set of principles your whole life only to flip a switch when you hit one million, or two million, or (INSERT NUMBER HERE).

          Youth is wasted on the young; money is wasted on the old.

          Reply
          • everybodyhatesscott

            My father has been able to buy himself a new Ferrari for, oh, let’s say the last thirty years. Has he ever done it? No. Will he ever do it? No. By contrast, I bought Porsches I couldn’t really afford and drove them all over the country, having the time of my life, well before I was in sight of middle age.

            Does your dad want a ferrari? Most people I know who buy ferraris (n=1) polish them with a baby diaper in their garage and never drive them. It wasn’t the porsche that made it the time of your life. Maybe a porsche helps in the ladies department, but you don’t strike me as the type of guy who has struggled with that.

          • silentsod

            First Porsche (used!) at 25. I have a lot of memories with that car. A lot of them are fucking fixing the damn thing (used!), but still, a lot of memories. A financially wiser me would have bought a $5k used Civic and had no fun doing it.

          • Patrick King

            Wow!

            I’ll compose a more worthy response in due course.

            Meanwhile, I still recall as though it were yesterday my shock at being passed on a particularly scary downhill section of the Nurburgring by a brand new BMW driven by a 19-year-old Eddie Cheever in 1978. When I was 25 and dead broke.

            As the old Valvoline commercial said, “You can pay me now or you can pay me later.”

          • Phillip Smith

            If someone lives most of their life in misery, owning a sports car or a bigger house probably would not have made them happier long-term. Additionally, there are plenty of examples of people who are unhappy even with vast quantities of stuff. Being a saver does not lead to misery and nobody really thinks it’s a good idea to be so frugal that it makes one miserable.

            Lastly, because a lot of the 1% or 9.9% are older people, they are not always the same people. I went to one of these selective schools and have many “coastal elite” friends who still don’t really have work five years out from graduation. My most successful friends are all the Midwestern STEM degree types. In 30 years, the 9.9% will be made up of those engineers and doctors. The people who got liberal arts degrees and inherited a 1.5 $MM house but have >$100k in consumer debt and no meaningful career or business won’t be controlling anything that actually matters.

          • Brawnychicken

            As a guy on edge of the 9.9 I’d have to agree. I have “friends” who are quietly trying to get to millionaire next door status by counting every penny. I say “fuck that”. They are miserable, miserly, and dull. And as a white American male who has done some stuff, I’m unlikely to live long enough for the payoff. And even if I did, what would I do then?

            I’m going to enjoy it while I can as I likely won’t see 65-but I won’t go all in-because who knows, maybe I’ll make it to 90 after all.

        • hank chinaski

          The famed ‘position of fuck you’ so well laid out by John Goodman in ‘The Gambler’. Frugality and thrift were once virtues, but no longer, with headwinds of a decade of ZIRP and ballooning housing, health care and tuition costs and the incentives of cheap debt and a casino of endless leveraged stock bubbles.
          The grasshoppers are slaughtering the ants.

          Reply
    • Brawnychicken

      I read this once and read it as:
      “My wife grep up in Nebraska on a farm and is worth millions because of hard work and a modest lifestyle. My girlfriend grew up poor in Idaho”

      I’d be happy to give you a bravo. Having a wife and girlfriend is a good way to be satisfied, but not a good way to have any money.

      Reply
    • chupachup

      your auto mechanic friend probably just enjoys that stuff. i have a w124, a 990 adventure, a bianchi and a santa cruz. solely because i enjoy them, i’m well aware a ’95 e420 and a beat up white ktm isn’t baller

      Reply
  6. Ryan

    Very interesting read. Thank you. As a successful product of a Midwest state school, I think there will always be opportunities to have a good and successful life based on hard work. However, I have no aspirations to move beyond my successful Midwest life style. I would assume it’s different on the coasts.

    Reply
  7. Harry

    One of my favorite things about this blog is how it makes me examine my own life. Before I pat myself on the back, for a two adult household, would we need a combined net worth of 2.4 million for us both to be in the in the top 9.9? Or is one of us in and the other out?

    Reply
  8. Harry

    Also, from what I have been reading about home inventory in the Columbus market recently, just give it some time then get out when the gettin is good.

    Reply
  9. statick89

    I think about this constantly while I’m living in Boston. The treadmill to get kids on the “right track” – the right town with the high property values, right elementary school, high school, college, etc – takes such a large amount of money. As Jack said, there are exceptions: As a lower-middle class Midwestern kid going to one of the near-Ivies on a full ride, the fact I was on a full ride was certainly something some of my classmates wanted to keep using to differentiate themselves, because their parents had spent a mint on the right schools, SAT prep, etc. However, that option is available to almost no one. My nephews and their cousins back in the Midwest certainly will never attend my alma mater.

    Out here, it’s hyper-important to get into the highest ranked undergrad institution possible. The “best” grad schools, regardless of topic, seem to have lower standards for undergrads coming from an Ivy, than from a near-Ivy, and then from anywhere else. Just like undergrad, the more prestigious the grad school the more success later on. The CEO of Goldman Sachs isn’t coming from a Babson MBA program any more than a federal Circuit Court judge is coming from Western Michigan University law, even if those were the most qualified candidates. The number of people with PhDs and MBAs that I run into from prestigious institutions that aren’t that bright is disappointing. The problem is that these are the people making decisions to spend billions of tax dollars, maintain privacy on your shopping websites and social media feeds, invest your retirement funds, etc. Scary.

    Reply
    • Dan S

      Everybody says this, about needing to get into the right/best schools or you won’t be able to get a decent job. I grew up hearing the same thing, went to a well respected engineering school. A decent portion of the engineers I work with have never heard of it, and literally nobody I work with cares where I went to school. The only place it’s really mattered has been getting into grad schools. The people I work with care whether or not I’m competent at what I do.

      Bachelors degrees outside of STEM have already become…less valuable. I think it’s likely that over the next several decades we’ll see a push by successful companies towards skill and competency based hiring rather than an educational one.

      Reply
      • Eric H

        A degree gets you in the door when you have no experience.
        That’s it… unless you need additional certifications like a P. Eng, pass the Bar, or get your medical practiconer’s license.

        I’ve been programming professionally since I was 19 back when they didn’t care at all about degrees (late 80’s) and now that I’ve been doing it for three decades no one even bothers to ask anymore.

        Reply
        • safe as milk

          @Eric H depends on how you play it. like you my fancy degree has had zero effect on my career and nobody ever brings it up in interviews.

          my brothers, on the other hand, have networked using their ivy league alumni organizations and clubs and it has created a number of opportunities for them.

          Reply
    • safe as milk

      “The number of people with PhDs and MBAs that I run into from prestigious institutions that aren’t that bright is disappointing. ”

      reminds me of an awkward conversation i had dating many years ago. the woman was a harvard gmba and a mckinsey consultant. she was bragging to me that she had advised the ceos of some fortune 500 corporations to expand into commodity products that could be manufactured cheaply and than sold at high profit because of the brand recognition. so i told her that my father, who did not have and mba, told me that you never want to have the exact same product as every body else because then you are competing on price. when you compete on price, someone will always do it cheaper. at first your reputation may help with sales but eventually, the customer will figure out that all the products are the same and buy, the cheapest one. then you are out of business.

      she looked at me blankly and said, “none of the ceos ever brought up that point.”

      Reply
    • mopar4wd

      On the hyper focused kids. I know some people that are in the top 5% and man setting them up for the future is expensive and they do it anyways. Making sure they are top of the class in the best schools and having all the righ extracurricular’s and hiring coaches to get them scholarships (not because they can’t afford to pay for schools but because the scholarship looks better in fact one father I know who’;s daughter got a full ride to a well know private New England schools then donated the value of the scholarship back to the school) . One father I know is paying one academic scholarship expert $3,500 for his sophomore in high school and a sports scholarship expert $4,000 for the same kid.

      Now as for how much it matters. To some extent it matters more at the start of your career. But not always and it depends alot on the company while many value work over education some (I’m thinking some of the FIRE fields here) the old boys club matters more then you would think. But you have to be the kind of person that can effectively use what your given.

      Reply
  10. Harry

    I am going to call shenanigans on what I think is the main thrust of this article. I do not factually disagree with any of the statistics quoted.

    The goal of being financially successful person is someone who has accumulated a net worth fo 1.2million (or greater as adjusted for inflation) by some reasonable age (50?), while not being miserly, is attainable by many paths other than an Ivy or near Ivy. (although the farther away from Ivyness one gets, the more difficult the path is, I am not advocating going to a directional school).

    As far as the social mobility aspect, I think it goes without saying that the less you start with the more difficult it is. But there are clear paths that one can take to the top 9.9% in wealth if you are in the 9.9% in both intelligence and perseverance. No unpaid internships needed.

    Reply
  11. S2k Chris

    Yeah another concern is salary vs net worth to calculate one’s “rank” in society. Often wealth and age are highly correlated, especially if we consider residences (obviously a 30y/o with a paid for residence is unusual in the way a 60y/o one isn’t), and even when soncisering investments. I am no where near as wealthy as my parents, but I guarantee I am much wealthier than they were at my age. And they probably didn’t hit our HHI until way later in life. So should I feel like a failure for being in the top handful of percent for income, and not for NW, given my relative young age and steep salary trajectory?

    Reply
    • mopar4wd

      In your case I think your on the trajectory to be in the top 10% the bigger issue is that more people from lower ungs of society are being locked out of the chance to get there.

      Reply
  12. James

    You don’t need capital, so long as you have income (and credit). Also, a Nissan Leaf is a depressing car, and if you have the income to support building up $1.2 million in capital, the difference in cost between a Leaf and a good car is trivial. Yeah, you shouldn’t waste money on things you don’t value, but let’s figure: spend $1K per month on cars, forever? That’s $12K per year, or 1% of your capital. And $1K per month will put you in a pretty nice Lexus!

    Reply
  13. Tony

    Part of the argument seems contradictory. First you state that:
    “SAT scores are an ironclad predictor of future success and there is no adjustment for race in the results.”

    But then argue:
    “What happens to all those outstanding kids, be they Asian-American or not, who are bounced out of the Ivy League so as not to make their betters uncomfortable? They go to state schools, to safety schools, and so on, and so forth. And when they get out of school, they are handicapped by their second-rate degree and lack of connections”

    Seems like the equivalent SAT scores should override getting bounced out of an Ivy League school.

    Reply
    • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

      I probably should say “with equivalent conditions.”

      If you take a kid with a 1600 SAT and send him to mine coal in West Virginia, he’s going to be at a disadvantage.

      Reply
      • Harry

        But the choice isn’t Ivy or coal mine. It’s Ivy or (also very selective) safety school. Or, if they can’t afford it, CC followed by a selective safety school. ROTC ect.

        If they then want an internship at Goldman-Sachs, they are banging their head against the wall. But a decent entry position at a regional Merrill Lynch office is very possible. From there they have to continue to meritocrisize themselves to wealth by outcompeting their peers in order to achieve wealth.

        This hypothetical person doesn’t have the luxury of making mistakes like his more privileged competitors do. He or she can’t fall in love with the voluptuous young. tavern wench who is just temporarily down on her luck (and has three kids).

        This person can’t not take the transfer to a new city. This person can’t be afraid to make a lateral career move because they think the new position has a higher ceiling.

        However, they can do it.

        Then their kids can make mistakes.

        Reply
        • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

          I’m not sure where we are disagreeing, if at all.

          The 9.9 Percent preserve their hold on the world by forcing their would-be competitors to jump extra hoops. The scenario you’ve just described is an example of forced hoop-jumping.

          Reply
          • Harry

            Its certainly possible I am arguing in my head against my acquaintances who claim social mobility in this country doesn’t exist (at least upwardly), arguments those conversations are usually hand in glove with diatribes against Ivies.

            I feel oddly compelled to express myself on this topic, I usually think then write.

            Something in me feels that people should have to jump through extra hoops to make it that far. Otherwise, it isn’t as much of an accomplishment? Or maybe its more of not wanting to join a club that would want me as a member?

            Maybe I am bitter 20 years later that I was a white kid on that admission bubble and I never applied to the Ivies. My personal narrative is more satisfying if I think about it as a struggle against the odds and I didn’t realize how caught up in that I can be.

            So I will go back to my first comment of one of the things I enjoy about this site is that it makes me reconsider how I look at the world.

          • Daniel J

            “The 9.9 Percent preserve their hold on the world by forcing their would-be competitors to jump extra hoops”

            Isn’t this just a mirror of the current corporate business model we have today? Every small guy is trumpeting “free enterprise, markets, and deregulation” and every big guy is paying lobbyists out the nose to put a noose around their competition.

          • mopar4wd

            Exactly you can see it in number the upper 10-15% of this countries wealth is increasing much faster then the bottom 90-85%. In effect the old guard is rebuilding their hoops from the past.

      • mopar4wd

        So I had to look up my percentile for SAT scores thanks to this discussion. Looks like I just missed 90th percentile another thing I’m not in.. doesn’t matter much anyways as I went to trade school instead of college.

        Reply
  14. Opaddington

    Unless he’s living off the grid, a kid with a 1600 SAT score will not see the inside of a coal mine. That score would make him a slam dunk National Merit Finalist. As a result, scores of universities will contact him and beg him to attend their school for free. Ivy league schools won’t do it but every mid tier and below school will. They like to brag about the number of Merit Finalists and Semi Finalists that they have enrolled. It’s good for recruiting.

    A kid with a STEM degree from a state college and no student debt is off to a damn good start in life. He won’t be rubbing elbows with the Chelsea Clintons of the world but the 9.9% is easily within reach.

    Reply
  15. Rob

    My first job out of school was with a large media conglomerate headquartered in NY/NJ. They hired about 25 of us recent graduates from a very diverse group of schools. I was quite shocked to learn that the 3 Harvard graduates in my group were no smarter or exceptional than the ones I knew from the biology department of my mid-sized public university in the deep south. Each of the 3, however, had a demographic quality or qualities that made them different than the usual middle-class white kids I was accustomed to. I guess my point is, Harvard Shmarvard. These kids took the same bottom-rung sales job that I did. Now, they may have been able to parlay connections or alumni networks into great wealth and success in the years interim, but as we entered the job market, we were equals.

    Reply
    • mopar4wd

      Yeah as some one who has spent a disproportionate time around wealthy people for work. It seems like a 50-50 mix of really smart people and really lucky idiots with good connections.

      Reply
  16. DirtRoads

    I wish I could still buy a running car for $150 like my first car was. Oh wait, I bought one that ran and one that didn’t.

    No Ivy leaguer here, and I’m almost 60 with two divorces behind me so I have no assets, either. Except a lovely wife who is 11 years younger than me; she’s my retirement plan. Otherwise, this Boomer who ruined life for all following generations is well and truly screwed, bound to work well into my 70s in order to retire just in time to not enjoy RVs, traveling the world (OK I already did that) and sipping umbrella drinks at a street cafe in southern France. Oh, I’ve done that, too. Well either way, I’ll still work far more years than a 9.9%er and retire, if social security is still there, on basically nothing.

    I’ve never even seen an Ivy league school and put myself through college in my 20s. Parents never added a dime, but they were there for graduation.

    There’s more to life than being wealthy, but if you’re rich you can live in misery in a nicer house.

    Reply
  17. redlineblue

    >>The minimum possible number of threatening outgroup achievers, regardless of race.

    My dad got one of those slots. Then he taught, and worked in admissions, at one of Those schools. He called the selected outgroup achievers “the lifeguards [at the gene pool]”. Nicer than ‘breeding stock’, don’t you think?
    He also sold me his GTI, on manageable terms, as I finished college.

    Reply
    • john marks

      As a former factory-certified VW New Car Sales Advisor, I shudder to ask:

      What are “manageable terms,” in this scenario?

      Based on my long experiences, that would be, he settles an irrevocable trust fund for your benefit and pays $600 a month into it, for as long as you relieve him of that burden.

      Just sayin’.

      John Marks
      P.A.W.T. Ivy-League Token

      Reply
      • redlineblue

        I know what you’re getting at. But that car was great to both of us. Got it for $2750 (an ’84, in ’89, w 60k, absurd lights, OD 5th, no AC, coddled).
        I heaped abuse on it to the 115k mark, sold it for $2000. Closest I got to a trust fund is the fact that Dad co-signed the loan with which I purchased the car — and that said purchase was my total debt load upon graduation.

        P.A.W.T?

        Reply
        • john marks

          P.A.W.T. Poor-Ass White Trash. At least at a casual glance. Hand-me downs and an unmistakeable working-class accent.

          I hasten to state that my parents were hard-working strivers, rather then dysfunctional. The Depression had wrecked havoc on both their families. My father quit high school after nine weeks to get a job on the docks to help his parents make ends meet for his younger siblings, and then served in the Pacific during WWII. When my parents got married, the best housing deal for returned veterans was government housing.

          The trajectory of my early life was from the Federal Housing Project on Prairie Avenue in South Providence, to scholarships at the Moses Brown School and Brown University (both of which were in retrospect, mixed blessings).

          Oh, BTW, in the event clarification is sought: I am a native-born Caucasian US citizen of mixed (majority) Irish, and (un soupçon) Nigerian heritage.

          Ciao,

          John

          Reply
    • rambo furum

      Fact. But don’t state the obvious or they’ll pull the old “ant-semitism” canard. Remember, an anti-semite is someone the Jews don’t like.

      Reply
      • Ronnie Schreiber

        You’re not an anti-semite (a fictional term invented by a Jew-hater). You’re a Jew-hater.

        Reply
        • rambo furum

          I am a proud counter-semite. They really don’t like getting their tactics reversed on them, do they?

          Reply
          • Ronnie Schreiber

            Dunning-Kruger write large.

            I wonder just how meaningless and unproductive one’s life has to be to devote a major portion of what surely is a miniscule brain to fictional conspiracies.

            Just what have you accomplished in your life?

            How come you aren’t boycotting anything and everything that Jews have had a hand in developing?

            Cut rate Aryan.

          • manfromlox

            I’ve known a lot of jews in my life and none of them were anti- me.

            I’d be willing to bet you know zero jews IRL, but you damn sure are anti- them.

            Regardless, I can’t think of any reason you would be proud of that.

        • safe as milk

          @robbie schreiber “You’re not an anti-semite (a fictional term invented by a Jew-hater).”

          why do you say that? according to wiki anti-semitism is atributed to moritz steinschneider, an austrian jewish scholar.

          i do admit that jew hater is more apt since many arabs and others from the middle east are also semites.

          Reply
          • Ronnie Schreiber

            Most sources attribute the term to Wilhelm Marr (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wilhelm_Marr). It’s possible someone else coined the term but Marr undoubtedly popularized it. Late in life, he renounced Jew-hatred, saying that societal evils he had attributed to negative Jewish influence were actually due to the social upheaval of the industrial revolution.

            As for “semites”, it’s a bit of a misnomer. One could say that there aren’t any semitic peoples. Sometimes you will see some circular logic and see “Semites are peoples who speak semitic languages.” Marr and others stole a term from linguistics, not ethnology. The term “semitic” was coined in the late 18th century by German linguists, to describe a family of *languages* (Hebrew, Arabic, Ugaritic etc.). Since then, in part because of the term “anti-semitism”, the use of the word “semite” to describe Jews and their genetic cousins, using it to describe peoples, has proliferated, though that use isn’t well founded.

            This has led to Arabic Jew-haters claiming they can’t be anti-semites because they are semites.

  18. VicMik

    I like your integration here.

    But is it really a zero sum game? Here is what I did to be at the door to 9.9 by mid career.

    1. Get a STEM degree from State
    2. Relocate to a good market
    3. Make money
    4. Marry another college grad

    There is a reason why in US we use phrases like “make money” and “create wealth” for it’s not a zero sum game.

    Reply
  19. Gene B

    I enjoyed the post. I live in an area with many of the 9.9%, maybe I am one myself. I think this is another example of the Pareto Principle, which applies to literally everything. One of my favorite books on the subject is Perry Marshall’s 80/20 Sales and Marketing – a must read, it explains a lot.

    Although I agree so many people are locked out – simply by the costs alone and many other factors – I have observed that those in that segment simply behave differently due to the surroundings and lifestyle they are accustomed to, and see as normal. They naturally push those aside that are not like them. I see it with my kids in their private schools. The genesis of this division happens very early on. There is much more to life than test scores and raw capabilities indeed.

    For the rest of us it’s hard not to see privilege when you are on the other side; to them it is just life. Many (if not most) don’t have such great lives, they work so hard and spend little time with family or friends, what little time they have they indulge with the money they don’t have time to spend. It’s easy to envy that material wealth – its what you see – but their lives are complicated, messy and often lonely. Be careful what you wish for. Wealth does not equal happiness but it might equal arrogance.

    Reply
    • silentsod

      Your second paragraph is expounded upon in much greater detail in Charles Murray’s Coming Apart, I would highly recommend you read it as it is essentially arguing your point about two different cultures (lifestyles, norms, etc) living side by side and having little contact with one another.

      Reply
    • mopar4wd

      Wealth equals happiness to a certain point some where between the around that 10% number would match up with the income in many studies found to be the happiest. Basically the income to go to the grocery store and not care what the bill comes out to be.

      Reply
  20. -Nate

    Wow .

    Lots of food for thought here .

    I’m so far over the hill I can’t look back but this is still very relevant and interesting .

    -Nate

    Reply
  21. Dirty Dingus McGee

    Oh goody, another disliked group (9.9) that I seem to be a part of . Yay.

    Perhaps if I hadn’t pissed away money over the last 40 years racing cars, boats and playing with motorcycles and street rods, I could be higher up the food chain. Not 1% income, but higher into the 9.9.

    But I sure would have missed a lot of fun.

    Reply
      • Dirty Dingus McGee

        That’s one list I haven’t been on in many moons. Not that I was ever “Studley McMann”, but at least back then women and small children didn’t run away in abject fear of the “scary looking” guy.

        Reply
  22. Will

    Don’t forget the international students; I’ve been applying to graduate school and a good 20-30% spots are for these types of students. We’re not even trying to educate our own.You have state institutions rejecting their own for those who won’t even live here beyond the 4 years. It’s crazy. It’s almost reached the point where college is essentially worthless. I know my degree is/was.

    Reply
  23. hank chinaski

    Great post and discussion, on several levels, and deserves better than I’m able after only one coffee.

    I suffered through the Atlantic article, sober, unfortunately, and found it summed up thus: high IQ people with impulse control and the ability to delay gratification will succeed, congregate, marry, breed, and pass these characteristics on to their progeny. This gives the author bad feels.

    Lol at /chan term ‘normie’ becoming colloquial.

    Reply
  24. Daniel J

    I haven’t finished the Atlantic article. I stopped at this line right here:

    “If the system can be gamed, well then, our ability to game the system has become the new test of merit.”

    I went to a state school with a well respected Engineering program. I saw all too often people who “gamed” the system, some with perfect or near perfect ACTs and SATs, who crash and burned as soon they hit Calc B, Digital Electronics, or Intro to Software Engineering.

    Another interesting Atlantic article, especially related to the college front: https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2012/05/does-it-matter-where-you-go-to-college/257227/

    Reply
  25. JC

    One thing everyone seems to be missing is that the “social connections” and “networking” one is supposed to find at an elite university are not really available to the sons and daughters of the hoi polloi.

    Sure, they may sit in class next to them, but do you really think Biff and Muffy, son and daughter of the Goldman Sachs investment banker or New York real estate mogul, are going to socialize, help out with contacts for summer jobs, marry, etc., Eddie Nguyen, son of a convenience store owner (1600 SAT), or Susie Miller (1590 SAT), daughter of an African-American single mother day care worker, from South Central LA? Not gonna happen. Nope, Biff and Muffy will be socializing with Chad and Heather, and when the young folks go to spend the summer at their parent’s place in Kennebunkport, where they’ll be meeting and (hopefully) impressing their parents’ high power friends, it’s going to be Chad and Heather they invite not Eddie and Susie.

    For that matter, they probably won’t even be sitting in many of the same classes, as Eddie and Susie are going to be taking hard science and engineering classes so they can earn a living when they get out; Biff and Muffy who don’t have to worry about earning a living, will take easier courses in things like sociology and business.

    Reply
  26. Ken

    I can’t say I disagree much with the operating model of the 9.9%. I would act (er, am acting) in the best interests of setting up my children to carve out a space in the future hellscape Jack has predicted. (Exaggeration aside, your writing has played a part in how I approach parenting. A small part, but a part nonetheless.)

    I’m focused on providing for my kids both emotionally and financially. Its a balance between working hard and being around, for them. As well as finding my own enjoyments, for me… but a happy me, is for them too.

    Prior to kids I was a bit more frivolous. Cars, motorcycles, mountain bikes, electronics, going out a lot, etc, etc. In hindsight I would have “saved” in a few areas, but overall I wouldn’t trade those experiences and memories for more money in the bank today.

    After kids, I carved out a plan. One that included a better school district, college savings, retirement, and family fun. Fun for Dad is still there. Though I live 5% for me and 95% for my family now, which is about the same split with the finances. I’m really happy.

    You can’t buy time.

    Reply
  27. mopar4wd

    I think this is a larger problem then just college. There are studies out there showing income mobility/ social mobility has decreased in the past couple decades (while increasing in many other countries.) I have also read several studies showing that middle class incomes for the 90% do not match their parents at any given age for millennials and younger gen X (I believe the study went up to age 40) .
    In some sense this means the country is returning to an older form of our selves where birth matters more then it probably should (think social classes of the late 1800’s.) much in the way middle class income for blue collar workers has fallen so has income mobility which feels an awful lot like moving backwards.
    Maybe the 20th century will turn out to be an anomaly of american history.

    Reply
  28. -Nate

    FWIW, nothing wrong with being a Tradesman .

    I do fine, my highly educated siblings OTOH, are not happy, not a one of them in spite of the $ .

    I prefer my little Blue Collar life to theirs .

    If you’re happy being highly competitive and making millions, go for it .

    I know many uber rich and only a very few are remotely content .

    -Nate
    (sorry for mis posting to the wrong article before)

    Reply
  29. Mike

    I don’t see the issue with a limit on Asian students at top universities. They are already over represented with whites under represented at places like Harvard. If they don’t like it they can go elsewhere or back to India or China. US universities are not there to help a new wave of migrants take over the country. There are sufficient white students with top SAT scores to fill the 20000 plus openings.

    Reply
    • John C.

      The issue is the same as with Ronnie above. The affected ethnicity will not like it. And bitch up a storm hurling insults. That of course is easier than building up their own institutions that are so golden that everyone will want to attend. They will assume the institution is better with them than who it is designed for and loudly and rudely attack any push back to their change. The sad part is most institutions fold like Starbucks. Look at Harvard, surely I am not the only one taking the side of the rowing team over Zuck, his charming wife, the tax cheat Brazilian, the silly leaning woman and all those interns she doesn’t pay.

      Reply
      • Ronnie Schreiber

        Such a tragedy! The cloistered halls of the Ivy League have been besmirched by loud, rude and pushy Jews. How dare they raise the academic standards of institutions intended to be finishing schools for your barely bright cousins?

        Reply
        • John C.

          Yes rudeness is bad and reflects poorly on the parents of interlopers,

          Though no schools academic standards have risen in the last 50 years and now the past over represented ethnicity gets benefit of the same legacy help for their perfumed princes as that of the old guard, That of course is okay with you. And it should be. I reserve the right to stand for my kind and you obviously do for yours.

          Reply
          • Ronnie Schreiber

            Actually, I’m opposed to legacy admissions, no matter who it benefits, but then the way schools evaluate applicants these days borders on near complete bullshit. I want all kids, including Jewish kids to compete. If I was in charge of admissions it would be based on GPA and SAT scores and essays would only be required from those who don’t meet the objective standards. I figure if a 17 year old kid can write a persuasive argument why the rules should be bent for him, he deserves a shot.

            As for rudeness, it appears that in your own subculture it’s acceptable to be insulting provided one says it in polite language and doesn’t wear white before Memorial Day.

  30. stingray65

    The Atlantic article basically says that Ivy admissions are mainly based on meritocracy (i.e. high SAT scores and grades), and that advantaged kids get in, graduate, work hard and have successful careers, marry an advantaged spouse, and spawn kids who they work hard to raise (send private schools and science camp, etc.), and who repeat the cycle.

    And the alternative is? Force Harvard to admit more people with low IQ and poor work habits? Force Goldman Sachs and the Mayo Clinic to hire C- graduates of community colleges? Force hard working high IQ people to marry lazy low IQ people? Force good parents to get divorced, encourage their kids to take drugs and have unprotected sex, and send them to bad schools? Encourage all “elites” to “just say no” to all opportunities at good schools and good places of employment? Teach all non-elites that they are victims of a “crooked” “fixed” system that oppresses them, and that they should violently demand compensation (i.e. “free” money or new cars, affirmative action)?

    Any volunteers?

    Reply
    • mopar4wd

      Not really what the article says. It mostly states that people can no longer move up the ladder with good old hard work as they used to be cause the people in the top 10 have recreated the social barriers that existed a century ago in new and interesting ways.

      Reply
      • stingray65

        I disagree, its exactly what the article says – the author is saying that the new system is based on merit (i.e. test scores and good grades), but as a consequence those born with lower IQ, bad parents, etc. won’t get into Harvard and Goldman Sachs. But the class “mobility” that he is nostalgic about was mostly based on poverty and discrimination. The 1930s poor kid stuck on an isolated farm in Nebraska with the 130 IQ didn’t have the money or the transport options to even apply to Harvard (assuming he could finish high school before having to work full-time in the fields), and smart girls, and blacks, and Asians were prevented by the racial and gender discrimination of the time. Today, any smart girl or “oppressed” minority is welcomed with open arms at any school they apply at with a full-ride scholarship (diversity is our strength), but populations have stratified around the “have” and “have not” segments according to intelligence levels and “successful” personality and cultural values, and therefore far fewer “diamonds in the rough” that don’t get the opportunities their skills and talents deserve.

        Reply
        • Mopar4wd

          I don’t read it the same way. I read that yes certain people will always ground together and success will follow one group. But also the the upper 10% has created new barriers. As Jack points out if we were just going on intelligence the number of Asian students in the Ivey’s would be far higher. The author also points out when we had cheaper higher education and labor unions the number of people doing better then their parents among the bottom 90% were far higher. These same things allowed much more income mobility then we have now. Making it harder for the working class to move up in the world is a recipe for disaster, and why so many 20 year old’s are suddenly members of the DSA or other socialist/communist groups. It may not effect the 10% right now but it may well in the future.

          Reply
          • stingray65

            In a meritocracy, where the cream has risen to the top, you would expect much less mobility than in a society where skill/talent is more randomly distributed among the classes because of racism/sexism. What obstacles to mobility does the article’s author bring up besides having smart genes, marrying well, and being able to afford good schools and tutors for his kids? Smart people are more likely to have smart kids and be good parents than the less smart, which means their kids are more likely to end up at good schools/good jobs and marry good partners and stay at the top of the pyramid. What most people on the left seem to forget is that for someone to move up in society, someone else needs to move down, and the smart, resourceful, and caring parents that dominate the top are likely to do anything they can to help their kids stay at the top. So we get back to my question – what is the alternative? Do you want to volunteer your kid to trade places with someone at the bottom? And even if you are willing, it is unlikely that the kid at the bottom has the talent and skills to succeed in the big leagues, which results in a net loss to society and your kid.

          • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

            The author of the source article is not terribly self-aware. He dimly senses that they have erected barriers to entry but he can’t say exactly what they are.

            The purpose of my article was to show you what the barriers are and how they are constructed. In short, the 9.9 Percent have used “diversity” as a cudgel with which to bash back the invading Asian (and middle-class white) kids who would take the place of their own children in any authentic meritocracy.

          • stingray65

            Jack, The problem isn’t the relatively few spots reserved for legacies (who by and large still have very good backgrounds, capabilities, and test scores), the problem is the relatively large number of spots reserved for non-Asian minorities who don’t have the capabilities as indicated by low test scores (as you point out). At best they will take 6 years to complete a 4 year degree and end up with an easy grade major in some junk area such as gender studies, at worst they will drop out after a few years with no degree and large debts. If not for affirmative action, admissions in the best schools would be the most merit based in history, but even with affirmative action they are certainly better than 60-70 years ago when most freshman were WASP legacies and/or the mediocre brought in due to major donations from their families (Ted Kennedy for example). As for the middle class white heterosexual male with very good test scores and grades (but not perfect), there are lots of great schools that will be very happy to have him, and probably won’t screw him up as much with all the social justice nonsense (i.e. most Big 10 schools, Kettering, Rose-Hulman, Hillsdale).

          • mopar4wd

            Stingray I think your still missing where there are More Asian students with higher scores available then white students. The schools have just decided to artificially limit them. Another example on colleges of somewhat unintended (or intended) consequences, is that changing admissions to reflect more on the whole person then just intelligence (in the old way this was literally thru breeding as the Kennedy’s and other families show) This new whole person approach was described as a way to allow in kids with more diverse backgrounds but the 10% essentially learned the new system and use their wealth and power to game it. If you can afford the best in after school activities for your kids it shows up better then the poor kid with perfect grades (unless the poor kid has a compelling story for the annual fund raising effort) .

            You could also say that our political leaders have created a defense mechanism for the 10% Globalism and union busting have little effect on the income of the 10% but a whole lot on the bottom.

            Or another way zoning regs. My state of CT is great example of this despite being Blue. Not only did CT white flight from the cities we actively prevented the cities from expanding to increase their tax base. We then created all kinds of barrier to entry to the surrounding towns like 3 acre minimum lot sizes and requiring every house have a 2 car garage. Limiting rentals in most parts of town etc. All this means CT has over 150 municipalities and the less fortunate and the bad schools are contained to less then 10 of the municipalities. Even now the suburban 10% doesn’t understand what’s wrong with the cities they starved. I just read yesterday where the vast majority of non profits (which pay no property tax ) are housed in those 10 municipalities some of the cities have over 40% of their land value blocked by this. So they have gone after the state to make up for it which causes all the suburbs (that refused to allow the zoning for the non profits in their towns) to say those cities are stealing our tax revenue from the state. It is really being blind to the big picture.

          • stingray65

            I don’t understand your points at all. Yes I understand that some high scoring Asians are being discriminated against at top schools, which you and Jack seem to be against. On the other hand, you both seem to think that such discrimination is somehow thwarting the life possibilities of those in the bottom 90%, but you don’t seem to understand that these are contradictory preferences. If you think that coal miner kids from W. Virginia are getting locked out of Harvard and a life in the top 10% by all those smart Asians, then even more would be locked out if Harvard chose purely on test scores and the school became 80% Asian.

            It has never been easier for a bright person of any race or gender to get into a good school, and also get substantial financial aid. The problem is believing that the only thing separating the top 10% from the bottom 90% is an Ivy League degree. Most working class kids just don’t have the IQ (105-110+) and work habits to make do true college level work as a good school, much less the Ivy League, and forcing them on the college track just puts most of them in huge debt. We would be far better off putting more effort into vocational education, where they can earn a good living doing something useful and not wasting 4-6 years of their lives pursuing something they just don’t have the talents for.

          • Daniel J

            Especially in private universities, it’s not merely a competition. It’s about the total experience and the presentation of the school. I really have no issue with these schools being selective in however they choose. If we are going down that road, shouldn’t private scholarships work the same way? Most if not all are gender or race selective.

    • manfromlox

      stingray can’t (won’t? whatever) see anything that shatters his “white people are awesome” personal narrative. Don’t try to shatter that, or you’ll upset him.

      He’s one of my favorite bigots on here, let’s not upset that.

      Reply
  31. Compaq Deskpro

    I’ll admit I’m guilty too, I remember the salesmen I was talking to when they were expressing doubts about my credit saying “Well, we have these Darts here, real fuel efficient, and should be easier to get approval”, and I’m thinking “man, I don’t want no bitch ass Dart”.

    Reply
    • Daniel J

      Man I wish I had some money back 15 years ago so I could sue all those private scholarships that I couldn’t qualify for because they were discriminatory.

      Reply
  32. Hogie roll

    “The only white kids who are kept out of Harvard by race discrimination are lower-class and middle-class white kids who don’t have any connections”

    Heh. Keep juniors yarmaluke on tight and he’ll be fine when college admission time comes.

    http://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/the-myth-of-american-meritocracy/

    “Even more remarkable are the historical trajectories. As noted earlier, America’s Asian population has been growing rapidly over the last couple of decades, so the substantial decline in reported Ivy League Asian enrollment has actually constituted a huge drop relative to their fraction of the population. Meanwhile, the population of American Jews has been approximately constant in numbers, and aging along with the rest of the white population, leading to a sharp decline in the national proportion of college-age Jews, falling from 2.6 percent in 1972 and 2.2 percent in 1992 to just 1.8 percent in 2012. Nevertheless, total Jewish enrollment at elite universities has held constant or actually increased, indicating a large rise in relative Jewish admissions. In fact, if we aggregate the reported enrollment figures, we discover that 4 percent of all college-age American Jews are currently enrolled in the Ivy League, compared to just 1 percent of Asians and about 0.1 percent of whites of Christian background.53”

    Reply
  33. Hogie roll

    “However, if we separate out the Jewish students, their ratio turns out to be 435 percent, while the residual ratio for non-Jewish whites drops to just 28 percent, less than half of even the Asian figure. As a consequence, Asians appear under-represented relative to Jews by a factor of seven, while non-Jewish whites are by far the most under-represented group of all, despite any benefits they might receive from athletic, legacy, or geographical distribution factors. The rest of the Ivy League tends to follow a similar pattern, with the overall Jewish ratio being 381 percent, the Asian figure at 62 percent, and the ratio for non-Jewish whites a low 35 percent, all relative to their number of high-ability college-age students.”

    Reply
    • Ronnie Schreiber

      See what happens when you have a culture that stresses education?

      Frankly, the Jewish community would be better off sending more of their kids to yeshivas and girls’ seminaries and fewer to the Ivy League, but that’s a different issue.

      Reply
      • Hogie roll

        Try reading before commenting. But if you’re lazy and just want the most likely conclusion: nepotism and bribery.

        Reply
          • manfromlox

            Trolling Ronnie is Hogie’s biggest accomplishment in life. Congrats to all involved.

            I’m just here for the cake.

          • manfromlox

            Forgot to mention, Hogie is my other favorite bigot on here. Way to go, shitbox.

          • Ronnie Schreiber

            Trolling Ronnie is Hogie’s biggest accomplishment in life. Congrats to all involved.

            I’m not sure how much of an accomplishment that is. Jack says that I’ll debate some internet rando as though I was in a graduate seminar.

  34. Crancast

    Friday mid-day catchup for me here at Riverside. Really enjoyed this one Jack. Some of the connections you make are rather loose (and off by my take), but in a general sense, privilege more often than not leads to better choices (vise versa) and those choices lead to offspring making better choices with helping hands all around. Totally agree.

    I would lightly counter, going from the 90% to the 9.9% in most cases even before today’s dynamics has been a two-three generation move up the ladder. We could discuss whether that is fair, but it starts somewhere with a couple making different choices than their normal environment and stair steps up from there. It can and will continue even with the class defenders in place.

    On the small car link. I think you left volume out of your equation. The 9.9% will not create the volume required to keep the hand me down model going. So whether it is a small car, or a crappy economy SUV pretender, there will have to be something on the lower end. Maybe the 9.9% driving all those rentals on business travel fills some of the gap, but that’s not going to be enough either.

    Finally, even though the 90% cannot afford a new car, does not matter. They have and will continue to buy regardless – brother Bark has penned a few pieces on that.

    Well done, good thinker piece. Thanks.

    Reply
  35. classwarriorjackonaroll

    This is a neat trick by the Atlantic, and Jack you should know better than to quote it

    “According to a Pew Research Center analysis, African Americans represent 1.9 percent of the top 10th of households in wealth; Hispanics, 2.4 percent; and all other minorities, including Asian and multiracial individuals, 8.8 percent—even though those groups together account for 35 percent of the total population.”

    Asians have higher incomes and wealth than the average american- this is a fact. If you read carefully, it’s the obvious question about the stat above. Asians are only 5.6% of the US population, what % are they of that 8.8%?

    Its beneficial to people who hold the views espoused in the Atlantic article to lump Asians in with blacks and hispanics, because Asian performance in the economy / education puts doubt to the view that white racism is the sole reason for hispanic and black under performance . “See, people of color are underrepresented in the 9.9%”, dont look any deeper.

    My community is comprised almost solely of the 9.9%, and is about 40% Asian. I wouldnt feel too sorry for them, if I were you Jack. They are doing pretty well.

    The Ivy league definitely discriminates against Asians, tho, this is true. My kids are half Asian – half white. I’ll advise them to apply as white at some schools, and Asian at others.

    Reply
    • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

      No, I agree with you, and I should have pointed out that the “minority” stats in the graphs include Asian-American as a a minority.

      It’s when you combine the “legacy” admissions and the “minority” admissions that you see just how small the white space is, so to speak, for accomplished non-minority, non-legacy students. You know, like about 65% of the kids coming out of American high schools every year. They’re not invited to the party.

      Reply
  36. manfromlox

    I read the source article. It meandered a bit, but still managed to make a point.

    It’s luck. All the way down.

    You can churn up more of it or wait on what comes your way, but it’s chance, not merit.

    Reply
  37. Ryan

    My biggest takeaway from this article is that I should’ve spent less time drinking, chasing women, and playing hockey when I was in high school and more time giving a fuck about re-taking the ACT and applying to colleges.

    I was in something like 95th percentile on my first shot, nursing a major hangover. Refused to take the exam again. Wayne State gave me a full ride even though I put “Photographer for Playboy” on my application. It’s no surprise that I pissed that all away doing more of the above. 18 year old me was fucking retarded.

    Reply
    • -Nate

      @Ryan ;

      At least you’re intelligent enough to have tried college and learned from life .

      Too many never do .

      -Nate

      Reply
      • Ryan

        Honestly, it took a few years to realize the magnitude of my fuckups. I was at the point where it was either go back full time or end up working behind a parts counter for the rest of my life. Granted, not a terrible job, but watching my father and his colleagues bounce around various companies every time there’s a new regional manager made me realize that’s not where I wanted to end up.

        With that being said, my early 20s were great and I wouldn’t trade the experiences for anything.

        Reply
        • -Nate

          Agreed .

          I’d not wish my youth upon anyone but it was often fun and always interesting & educational .

          -Nate

          Reply

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