Yesterday’s Forbes’ cover of Kylie Jenner triggered me, so I need to be Luther for a few minutes.

She’s set to be the youngest-ever self-made billionaire.


I’ll be brief because this is actually an indictment.

There is no such thing as self-made.

Not for Kylie.

Not for me.

My parents have been together for over 40 years, but this December they’ll celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary. For personal and sentimental reasons, I am moved. For the statistical reasons that follow, marriage matters.

In the United States, children of married parents are 82% less likely to live in poverty.

Children of married couples complete more years of schooling, are 85% less likely to be in special education, and are more proficient in Math & Science (random, right?).

Children who live with both parents are 20-35% healthier than those from other family structures.

By virtue of my parents’ union alone, I benefit and continue to benefit.

1 self made


There is a distinctly American myth and distinctly American narrative of rugged individualism. We support meritocracy and pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps.

While I respect and understand the desire for personal growth, achievement, and upward mobility– rugged individualism does not exist.

You benefit from the health of your parents. Who benefit from the health of their parents.

You benefit from their level of education.

You benefit from their wealth and income.

You benefit by virtue of the country into which you and they were born.

You even benefit by virtue of the family you were born into within that country.

Our circumstances at birth significantly impact our future– whether or not we might wish it.

The Global Rich List analyzes income disparities across the globe. According to their analyses, those who earn more than $32,400 annually are among the top 1% of earners across the entire world.

In this vein, millions of Americans are in the “top 1%” of earners—a statistic that speaks to the pervasiveness of extreme poverty throughout the world.


global 2

(Check yours out!)

Other Alarming Statistics:

  • More than 3 billion people live on less than $2.50 per day, which is nearly half of the world’s entire population.
  • More than 1.3 billion people live on less than $1.25 per day—extreme poverty.
  • More than 750 million people are without access to clean drinking water.
  • Approximately 1.6 billon people—25% of all humans—live without electricity.

History exists, and it matters.

Your country of origin matters.

I have no interest in discussing the legacy of the Jenners or the Kardashians, their celebrity status as a marketing tool, their wealth, or privilege (although those are all equally relevant here).

We can work hard; we can sacrifice; we can persevere despite overwhelming odds. We can endure.

But there is no such thing as self-made– for anyone. Make no mistake about it.


2 thoughts on “The (American) Myth of Self-Made

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