What Does “life Chances” Mean?

German sociologist Max Weber coined the term “life chances” to describe the opportunities each individual has to improve her quality of life. According to this theory, the available resources in a person’s life dictate whether her life remains the same or improves both socially and economically. Max Weber lists property ownership, education, health care, food, clothing and shelter, as the main factors that define an individual’s life chances.

The life chances theory is a probabilistic concept that is used to predict how an individual’s life will turn out. For example, if an individual is born to a lower-class family that has little access to the main life chance factors, the probability of her growing up and remaining part of the lower class is high. However, if that individual gains access to higher education and much-needed health care, the probability of her achieving upward social mobility escalates.

By the same token, the life chances theory assumes that an individual who is born into a wealthy family has all the resources she needs to remain a member of the upper class. However, if those resources are lost, she falls into a lower social class and must have access to those vital resources before she regains her upper class status.