Jean-François Amadieu

The Keys of Destiny: School, Love, Career Publication date : March 23, 2006

In France, is your fate sealed if you were born in a poor housing project rather than in an upper-middle-class suburb; if you are female; if you come from a family that tends to be overweight or, rather, tall?
It is widely agreed that equal opportunities do not exist in France, today. Social and ethnic background and gender weigh heavily in determining a person’s future.
But, argues Jean-François Amadieu, in recent years the existing inequalities have been reinforced and hardened by a series of increasingly varied and subtle factors. These factors include not only the place of birth but also choices involving maternity, a child’s first name, the second language that will be studied at school, and group of friends.
It would seem that a number of individual choices, of minor significance at first sight, have become determining factors resulting in discrimination.
To what extent do academic success, work, love and state of health depend on our own efforts, our will, our personality or even chance events?

Jean-François Amadieu, a sociologist, teaches at the University of Paris-I. He is the author of Le Poids des apparences (2002, Odile Jacob paperback, 2005).