- Joseph Stiglitz discusses how the combination of increasingly concentrated wealth and deteriorating has eliminated any pretense of equal opportunity within the U.S.:
It’s not that social mobility is impossible, but that the upwardly mobile American is becoming a statistical oddity. According to research from the Brookings Institution, only 58 percent of Americans born into the bottom fifth of income earners move out of that category, and just 6 percent born into the bottom fifth move into the top. Economic mobility in the United States is lower than in most of- Meanwhile, Andrew Jackson points to John Schmitt's paper (PDF) explaining the well-established reality that a higher minimum wage can help lower-earning workers without doing anything to damage the availability of jobs.
Europe and lower than in all of Scandinavia.
Another way of looking at equality of opportunity is to ask to what extent the life chances of a child are dependent on the education and income of his parents. Is it just as likely that a child of poor or poorly educated parents gets a good education and rises to the middle class as someone born to middle-class parents with college degrees? Even in a more egalitarian society, the answer would be no. But the life prospects of an American are more dependent on the income and education of his parents than in almost any other advanced country for which there is data.
Young people from families of modest means face a Catch-22: without a college education, they are condemned to a life of poor prospects; with a college education, they may be condemned to a lifetime of living at the brink. And increasingly even a college degree isn’t enough; one needs either a graduate degree or a series of (often unpaid) internships. Those at the top have the connections and social capital to get those opportunities. Those in the middle and bottom don’t. The point is that no one makes it on his or her own. And those at the top get more help from their families than do those lower down on the ladder. Government should help to level the playing field.
Americans are coming to realize that their cherished narrative of social and economic mobility is a myth. Grand deceptions of this magnitude are hard to maintain for long — and the country has already been through a couple of decades of self-deception.
- 900ft Jesus highlights unmuzzledscience, a new blog detailing exactly how the Cons' crackdown on research is affecting federal scientists.
- David McLaren notes that Ontario is included among the list of provinces giving away natural resources for fire-sale prices - and in the process offers a reminder that mining giveaways don't do anything to ensure a province's prosperity.
- Finally, Stephen Elliott-Buckley reminds us to keep an eye out for people who may be able to contribute to public office if offered the chance - even if they haven't thought of the possibility yet.