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Odds of being a billionaire? About as likely as getting struck by lightning.

That's before you even start to factor in how much your family background influences your likelihood of being wealthy.

Have you ever wondered what the chances are of becoming rich? Well, for a start, it depends rather on what you mean by “rich”. If you’re talking Jeff Bezos or Bill Gates level of wealth, then we’ve got some bad news for you: according to Investopedia you’re about as likely to be hit by lightning as you are to become a billionaire. But what about just regular rich, which according to a majority of Brits, kicks in about when you start earning around £60k a year?

Incomes above £60,500 are earned by ten percent of Brits. But that doesn’t mean every baby born in the UK has a one in ten chance of growing up to be wealthy. Nor does it matter all that much how smart you are. Instead, one of the biggest factors to take into consideration is how well-off your parents are. Research by the London School of Economics found that a child of low academic ability from a high-income background was a third more likely to be a high earner than a high-ability child from a lower-income background. The reasoning is that well-off families generally have more time, money and contacts which can give their children better education and job opportunities.

This idea of whether we can easily transcend the economic circumstances of the family we were born into is known as intragenerational mobility. In the UK, and indeed in many other countries, intragenerational mobility is very low. It can be a hard one to tackle, because most parents want to give their kids the best possible chances in life, and wealthier families will always have advantages in that area.

Some people have suggested we could fix it by abolishing private schools, to make educational opportunities more equal. But that may not be enough: richer parents may simply move to the catchment areas of the best state schools, pushing up house prices (because more people want the homes than there are homes available, so they have to bid against each other) and therefore pushing out poorer families in the process.

Read our explainer on: intragenerational mobility

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