Just 6 Percent of Us Have the Jobs We Wanted As Kids

Boy as Office Worker Thinking In Office.
Photo: Yousuke Tanaka/Corbis

Well, here’s your depressing stat of the day: According to a new study in the journal Social Forces, just 6 percent of adults end up in the careers they wanted when they were kids. Researchers examined data from the British Household Panel Survey, zeroing in on interviews with 3,000 people who’d been answering annual questionnaires since childhood. One of those questions asked about career aspirations, so the researchers were able to compare respondents’ childhood answers with the actual jobs they held in early adulthood. 

Most of the adults didn’t wind up doing the jobs they’d dreamed about as children, but the researchers found that the kids who’d aspired to gender-typical careers — boys who wanted to be mechanics and girls who wanted to be nurses, for example — were more likely to be doing those jobs as an adult, no doubt because there were fewer barriers to overcome.

The study didn’t examine why most of us don’t land in the occupation our childhood selves wanted, but maybe it’s because, to children, there are just a handful of job options out there: doctor, scientist, police officer, salesperson — the kinds of things the cartoon animals in Richard Scarry books do. Also, when I was a kid, the job of “putting words on the internet all day” didn’t exactly exist yet, and maybe your current occupation didn’t, either. At any rate, try to have a happy Friday at the job 8-year-old you never wanted. 

Just 6 Percent of Us Have Jobs We Wanted As Kids