Economy Policy Subject-Specific

Economic Mobility: So Much For Horatio Alger

The Brookings Institution has just released a new book-length study on economic mobility in the United States, and the findings are pretty depressing. Even Stuart Butler, a Heritage Institute scholar I worked with as editor of the Atlantic Community, has difficulty putting a positive spin on the situation when asked to comment on the Brookings study:

“It does seem in America now that for people at very bottom it’s more difficult to move up than we might have thought or might have been true in the past.”

No kidding. I wrote about this subject back in November:

A seemingly high level of income mobility supports the argument that America is still the land of opportunity, to the exclusion of all others: that there is something unique about this country that rewards entrepreneurship and risk-taking. But is that mythical America still around, if it ever was? …If the U.S. economy is so excitingly dynamic, why do children in Canada and Europe have a better chance of surpassing their parents’ incomes?

At the time of writing, there was still resistance to the idea that the U.S. was entering a recession. Now that the economy is looking bleaker, major media outlets are pulling fewer punches, and covering more bad news. The New York Times headline for the Brookings news, “Higher Education Gap May Slow Economic Mobility,” is shown next to a graphic showing that “a person born into a poor family who graduates from college has a 19 percent chance of entering the top fifth of earners in adulthood.”

The fight now will be over the reasons that this is happening. But at least we’re starting to see agreement that economic mobility is declining, and the left and right can argue over how best to fix it.

More recent studies on economic mobility in the U.S. and elsewhere:

3 replies on “Economic Mobility: So Much For Horatio Alger”

I exceeded my mother’s income at the age of 19, and my father’s shortly thereafter. Then I threw it all away to go to law school and sink into massive amounts of debt. Ask me in ten years if it was worth it…

That said, I agree with you. When I taught law at a high school in the “ghetto,” I was aghast at the disparity between that school and the one I attended, which was just an average public school in an average suburb.

Thanks Beverly. That’s really shocking to hear that you exceeded your mother’s income at the age of 19. If you were on such a swift track at that age, I’m sure that going to law school will be the right choice for you.

And I agree with you (again) on your second point. I went to a special magnet program within a public high school and the gulf between the education that I and my classmates were lucky enough to receive and what the kids in the larger school were getting was enormous.

When I Google my classmates from the magnet, they show up. Students from the regular school, not so much. I think that the Internet can create the illusion of a middle-class and upper-income world sometimes, hence my pleasure that the NYT is covering the income gap.

شبیه گاندی شده!Your political coampssEconomic Left/Right: -6.00Social Libertarian/Authoritarian:-3.18خداییش همت کردم تا آخرش رفتمدو سه تا سوال هم دقیق نفهمیدم چی چی خواسته.

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