|By BERNARD CONDON, AP Business Writer|
And he thinks of his youngest sister, Jackie, whom he practically begged to go to college and how she refused and is "paying for it" now, watching with envy while he flies around on vacation and enjoys his wealth.
At least that's how he sees it. She has a different view. But they don't talk much.
"I'm disappointed in her," says Jayson, 37. "I think it's distanced us."
It's a story as old as humankind: People raised in the same home, at the same time, by the same parents, who as adults land in vastly different financial circumstances.
Experts see a growing trend. The same forces that have increasingly separated the richest Americans from everyone else is dividing brothers and sisters, too. It's given rise to a mix of often conflicting emotions — jealousy and resentment, disappointment and distance, but also frequently understanding and respect.
From 2009 through 2012, income for the wealthiest 1 percent of households surged 31 percent, after adjusting for inflation, according to research by economist
As the wealth gap has widened, some mental health professionals say they've seen more patients for whom such a divide has become a personal issue.
In 35 years practicing psychotherapy,
"'My sibling can afford to join this country club, and I can't.' 'My brother has houses in four countries, and why can't he help me out?'"
There's more than one reason
"I thought they would be proud of me," says Schneider, 53. "But it really wasn't that way."
Likewise, VP Young Chang, co-owner of a
"It didn't play well. It wasn't, 'Congrats, Buddy,'" says Chang, 38. "There was jealousy — 'Why do you drive a
Now, when the family gets together, Chang borrows his mother's van.
A decade ago, sociologist
That doesn't work if your brother or sister becomes wealthy. A disparity in siblings' fortunes can feel, Conley says, like a judgment on intelligence or drive.
"You had pretty much the same advantages and disadvantages growing up," says Conley, author of "The Pecking Order: Which Siblings Succeed and Why."
Such tangled feelings of success and failure can have a public impact, too. How Americans feel about the wealth gap within their families shapes how they feel about it nationally — whether or not they see it as an inequity that must be addressed, says
Economists ascribe the wealth gap to a range of factors. Some cite superstar pay for the financial and technological elite. Others highlight the role of low-wage workers overseas in shrinking wages for middle class Americans or how machines and software are replacing people on factory floors and in office cubicles.
Poll results suggest a paradox in the public's view: Americans might resent a wealthier sister or brother. Yet many people think the wealth gap is due mainly to the tendency of some people to work harder than others.
And it's not even clear most Americans worry about income inequality anyway. Fewer than half in a
"They know, or think, it's due to effort and choice" in their family, Kenworthy says "And they think that's probably how it works in the nation as a whole."
The last time
"You'd enjoy college," he recalls telling her, trying the soft sell.
But Jackie, then 18, was having none of it. And the anger between them mounted.
"You're destined for a life of mediocrity," he said.
"Let me do what I want!" she shot back.
Economists differ about how much weight to give the various factors behind the wealth gap, but they generally agree on one thing: College matters, in part because many of the middle-income jobs once available to those who skipped it are disappearing.
According to a
As with the nation, so with the Seavers.
Jayson went on to make big money at a commodity trading company —
Jackie went back to waitressing, married the boyfriend and took a job at a drug company, where her boss called her a "top candidate" for promotion. But he turned her down because he said she needed a college degree. Now, rather than jet around on vacation like her brother, Jackie and her husband tend to go camping. Yet she says she's happy with a more modest lifestyle.
Asked about the nation's wealth gap, Jayson says, "You get paid what you put in. We're in control."
Jackie isn't so quick with a response. She wonders if there's more behind the trend than some people working hard and making the right moves and others not. Still, in the end, she essentially agrees with her brother.
"It's self-motivation that's at the root of success."
"There's been income inequality since Adam and Eve," he says. "Different siblings have different abilities."
Only 3 percent of America surveyed about the wealth gap by Gallup in March felt it was the country's "most important problem," fewer than those who cited foreign aid and immigration. Asked in an October poll by
Among dozens of people interviewed by The Associated Press, many revealed similar views.
She went to work in radio after college. He earned a Ph.D. in mathematics from
"He worked hard and went to grad school; it's well deserved."
Spencer took a circuitous career route after dropping out of college before landing at an insurer in
"I've bounced around," he says. "I've decided my own fate."
Psychotherapist Smith says people seem almost "hard-wired" to measure themselves against others with more material success. With siblings, the comparisons can be particularly fraught. Relationships among brothers and sisters are so complex, she says, that siblings often seize upon gaps in wealth as a shorthand for other differences between them.
Still, she says her brother was correct about college in that fight at Christmas all those years ago. After being rejected a third time for a promotion, she started attending school at night to earn a bachelor's degree.
For his part, Jayson seems to have inched closer to his sister's view. In 2015, he will take a new job at a commodity brokerage that lets him work from
"I do envy her sometimes her simple quality of life," he says. "It's hard to determine who is the smarter, who is in a better position."
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