Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Horatio Alger Is Officially Full Of It

The Center for American Progress brings you this study demonstrating that someone who grew up poor is far less likely to become rich later in life than someone who was born with money. In other news, the Center for American Progress is renaming itself the Center for the Insanely Obvious.

Everlast said it best: "You know, where it ends, well, it usually depends upon where you start."

So to all those out there who still think that we live in a classless society and that people are to blame for their own poverty, you may officially shut up.

Now, of course, there will be a decent amount of debate regarding what to do about our appalling lack of upward mobility. This isn't a victory for liberal economics so much as a definite statement of a problem that most people know about but like to ignore. What I'd be interested to know is how this statistic functioned historically - for example, if this was still the case during the era of '50s and '60s moderately liberal economic policy. Or in the 1890s era of ultra-conservative economics. Of course, there are other factors that could contribute to those historical differences, but it'd still shed more light on this problem and possibly point us to solutions.


Mike said...

People who think we live in a classless society are delusional. More appropriately, they probably like to point to more visible factors when describing problems in society. Dan and I were discussing the Duke rape scandal, and he remarked how he had read that one of the kids arrested came from a neighborhood where the average income was around $100,000. We concluded it was hardly a race issue, as many are trying to spin it. Rather, like so much, it was simply a matter of the haves and the have-nots. (Not, as Dubya once callously remarked, the haves and the have-mores.)

I'm not trying to say race doesn't matter (though I would argue it shouldn't), or that a variety of other factors don't matter either. I just really think that ultimately, James Carville got it right: it's the economy, stupid.

All that having been said, I still don't have the slightest friggin clue how to fix it.

Ben said...

Oh, trust me, Mike. To the people of Durham, North Carolina, the Duke lacrosse rape scandal is definitely a race issue.

I have to admit I'm kind of surprised by this study. It's not that I thought we lived in a classless society. Anybody who's not deaf, blind, and stupid can see that. And it's not that I didn't realize most poor people stay poor and most rich people stay rich.

It's just that....well, in society's like England, it's assumed people will forever STAY in their class. In America, people believe the Horatio Alger myth enough that.....I dunno, I thought that we were at least a more upwardly mobile society that Europe.

This is depressing.