Wednesday, September 05, 2012

International Studies Show Upward Mobility in US a Myth.

It's one of those entrenched American myths, that even people from humble beginnings, if they work hard, and keep their nose to the grindstone, can pull themselves up by their bootstraps, and achieve the American Dream. It's the "land of opportunity", right?  Wrong. The reality is much different, so what leads people to embrace an idea that is contradicted by evidence and often times by their own experiences?

Sorry, "bootstrap" success is only possible when the playing field is level. While there is an infinitesimally small uber-successful "class" who reap untold benefits, the rest of us continue to spiral down the ladder. But despite evidence of declining mobility and structural inequalities, this idea of the American Dream is so anchored within our culture that most Americans continue to believe that perspiration is more important to mobility than the state of the economy or socioeconomic circumstances as a child.

You must take into consideration that our poverty rates are much higher than the poverty threshold or federal poverty measures acknowledge. The line above which a family can be reasonably expected to be able to pay their bills is far lower than it should be because  it doesn't include food or fuel in its calculus, and is  based on 3 times a thrifty basket of food, priced in 1978. The real poverty threshold is at least 3 to 4 times that rate. 2/3 of the poor remain hidden giving the illusion that the U.S. is still the "land of opportunity".

So it should come as no surprise that international studies show that exceptional upward mobility in the US is, indeed, a myth. 

Mobility Regimes and Parental Wealth: The United States, Germany, and Sweden in Comparison

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