For many years, securing equal life opportunities has been a normative goal shared by all democratic societies in the western world. Although, in principle, all citizens enjoy the same rights, in reality, individual life opportunities still vary according to family background which, in turn, shapes the prevailing pattern of social inequality. This is not a specifically German phenomenon. Based on a new methodology, the present findings demonstrate that, in Germany, family background has a significant impact on individual earnings, family income, hourly wages, and also educational success: 40 percent of individual earnings inequality can be explained by family background. In the case of educational achievement, this figure even exceeds 50 percent. By international standards, this places equality of opportunity in Germany at a similarly low level as in the US and significantly lower than in Denmark.