Horatio Alger, RIP
Americans love to believe that anyone can get ahead, that they can build a better life than their parents had, simply by working hard enough. The evidence suggests, however, that this is less and less the case. Just working hard will no longer suffice, especially for Americans who haven’t been born with wealth or particular talents. More and more, education has become the key to moving up—from poverty into the middle class, from the middle class into affluence—or to holding onto the middle-class lifestyle in which one was raised.
There is also growing—though still nascent—evidence that from one American generation to the next, mobility is declining. It’s getting harder, that is, to work your way into a higher income level than the one into which you were born. A son’s adult income in the United States is about half dictated by how much his father made, a percentage that is nearly as high as in any country in wealth-by-birthright Europe, according to the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development. In Europe, family connections and the circumstances of one’s birth are considered crucial determinants of success, a consequence of the entrenched aristocracies in the United Kingdom and, to a lesser extent, Italy and France.
The Pew Research Center reported in August that 71 percent of middle-class adults say it’s harder to get ahead now than 10 years ago. That’s a jump of 9 percentage points since the Great Recession struck in 2008.
read the full article at nationaljournal.com.