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Economist: Hire people from the middle-class because 'more of the posh ones are useless'

When looking to fill a job opening, consider someone who wasn't born into wealth and privilege, says Richard V. Reeves, senior fellow in Economic Studies and co-director of the Center on Children and Families at the Brookings Institute. That's because, he says, research shows that "more of the posh ones are useless."

"Basically, you want someone that grew up playing basketball or soccer, not sailing or lacrosse," he says.

Reeves, whose new book "Dream Hoarders" came out earlier this year, believes that the top 20 percent is consolidating advantages at the expense of the bottom 80 percent, and that is both unfair and un-American. But there are more practical reasons to consider hiring someone who wasn't born rich.

Richard V. Reeves.
Richard V. Reeves.

For example, he writes in "Dream Hoarders," a study by Oleg Chuprinin and Denis Sosyura for the National Bureau of Economic research found that fund managers who grew up working-class show better results, seemingly because "they have to be smarter in the first place in order to make it into financial services. The managers from more affluent families, as Chuprinin and Sosyura politely put it, 'show a much higher dispersion in their performance than managers of modest decent.'"

Overall, "there's good evidence that if someone makes it into a professional class to become a financial advisor or a lawyer, for example, that if they come from more humble background, they're actually more effective in their role than someone who's from a poorer background," Reeves tells CNBC Make It.

"That may well because they've had to work harder to get there, they've had to be a bit smarter, a lot smarter, in order to get there."

"Basically, you want someone that grew up playing basketball or soccer, not sailing or lacrosse." -Richard V. Reeves, Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institute

These days, Reeves argues, the deck is stacked against those who start out in the middle- and working-classes. "The upper-middle class perpetuates itself," making it harder for outsiders to break in, he says, although they often consolidate their advantages by using access to quality education: B.A.s rather than bequests.

For instance, upper-middle-class children get help from their parents to secure seats at the country's most elite colleges, which will in turn help guarantee them good, high-paying jobs. All the different ways those parents elbow competitors out of the way to get their kids in amounts to "cheating," says Reeves.

Reeves went to Oxford, but, he points out, that "didn't help my son get into Oxford, and he didn't get in, and it would have been seen as preposterously unfair if it had. So [the U.K.] might have a hereditary monarchy, but, by the way, [the members of that monarchy] don't get to go to Oxford and Cambridge anymore either because they don't get good enough grades."

At this point, workers who get into college without their parents' help and then manage to break into the professional classes probably had to work harder to overcome all of the obstacles in their way. They may also be brighter, less complacent and hungrier to prove themselves.

In short, says Reeves, "when choosing someone to do your taxes or do litigation or to advise you financially," look for a candidate who has "humble roots, not the one who comes from kind of upper-middle-class background."

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