Income and Chance

by Ben Perreira


Income distribution has been a hot button issue over the last couple years, with events like Occupy Wall Street prompting people to take political stances on how the United States deals with income inequality. This post is about practicality of earning rather than political posturing.

This chart shows a median household income of $50,000, meaning half of all US households make more and half make less. Those of us in big cities likely find this pretty astounding, but it is the truth.

I am much more interested in the right side of the distribution because that is the part that some people find to be a mystery or at the very least elusive. I find that to be the case because of how frequently business publications focus on how to “get rich” and the volume of TV documentaries about how billionaires made their money.

The reality, as I humbly see it, is that trying to be a billionaire is like trying to be a professional basketball player; it can definitely happen, but unless you’re born within a very narrow set of parameters it is pretty unlikely.

As we get farther from the median the results are more about chance than will. No doubt people have worked hard to become billionaires and many more will do so in the future. LeBron James and Kobe Bryant are known for their work ethic in their fields as well. Their heights (6’8″ and 6’6″, respectively) are also quite literally off the chart, not to mention any other physical advantages they have that we are unaware of.


If you’re 5’7″ would you learn how to play guard from Kobe? You could, but you may hit some roadblocks to becoming a star in the NBA. I advocate taking tips from any source one finds valuable, however it is probably best to beware that the source may have a hidden advantage that is not as clear (to you and them) as height.

Are there traits that are unique to those earning, say, between $150,000 and $300,000? I am interested. And it is the topic for a much deeper exploration.