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Job & Career

Does your family influence your choice of job? Facebook says yes

The Facebook research department used millions of data points to investigate how family influences people's career choices.

12 Apr. 2016 Jörn Brien

Career choice: Do sons follow their fathers, and daughters their mothers?

The Facebook study examined the impact of family on career choice. (Illustration: Facebook)

Sons taking up their fathers' professions, and daughters their mothers', is a thing of the past. But parents' professions still have some influence on their children's career choices today. Researchers used 5.6 million anonymized Facebook accounts to explore how strongly family influences job choices. Their finding: the influence is there, particularly for twins.

Parents pass on their genes, serve as an example and model for their children, and give advice based on their own experience. So it's easy to assume children would be more likely to follow in their parents' footsteps, than to choose completely different jobs or careers. The Facebook researchers reached a similar conclusion – but with some caveats.

Looking at the mother-daughter and father-son relationship, it appears that daughters with mothers who work in management have careers in education, management, office work or medicine, but rarely as architects, mathematicians or in the financial sector. Sons whose fathers are lawyers are 4.6 times more likely to pursue a career in medicine.

Career choice: Surprising correlation for twins

The influence of family on job choice is even more apparent for siblings, particularly twins. Fifteen percent of siblings chose the same profession, and this proportion is twice the usual level for same-age peers. Twins held yet another surprise for the researchers, with 24.7 percent pursuing careers in the same field.

In relative terms, according to the researchers, a child is more likely to work in the fields their parents work in, even if the absolute percentages are low. The positive conclusion: "In absolute numbers, children make their own way and choose a different profession than their siblings or parents," say the researchers of their overall results .