Feature

The ruse of social mobility

Americans have been nursed on hopes of moving up “since at least the days of Horatio Alger.”

James SurowieckiThe New Yorker

Americans have been nursed on hopes of moving up “since at least the days of Horatio Alger,” said James Surowiecki. Lately, though, it has seemed harder than ever for the poor to “climb the ladder of success” into the middle class. But was it ever really that easy? According to researchers from Harvard and the University of California, Berkeley, social mobility is no worse today than it was 20 years ago—or even in the halcyon postwar boom of the 1950s and ’60s. Back in the late-19th century, America really was different, but since the mid-20th century economic mobility has actually remained relatively stable here—and “lower than in most European countries.” The reason people feel stalled now isn’t that lack of social mobility. It’s that median U.S. household income has been stagnant for years, whereas it doubled between the late 1940s and the early 1970s. “That’s what has really changed in the past 40 years.” The bottom line is that “in any capitalist society most people are bound to be part of the middle and working classes.” So let’s not let our politicians get away with placating the poor with an increasingly empty myth of social mobility. They should “focus on raising their standard of living, instead of raising their chances of getting rich.”

Recommended

Israeli parliament approves coalition, Netanyahu out
Naftali Bennett.
changing of the guard

Israeli parliament approves coalition, Netanyahu out

Biden, Putin express openness to cybercriminal exchange
Joe Biden.
depends on what you mean

Biden, Putin express openness to cybercriminal exchange

Netanyahu goes 'scorched earth'
Benjamin Netanyahu.
loose cannon

Netanyahu goes 'scorched earth'

Biden says he's 'satisfied' with G7's final stance on China
G7 summit.
that'll do for now

Biden says he's 'satisfied' with G7's final stance on China

Most Popular

7 toons about the Dems' Joe Manchin problem
Political Cartoon.
Feature

7 toons about the Dems' Joe Manchin problem

Bad for Democrats. Good for democracy?
A voter.
Picture of Joel MathisJoel Mathis

Bad for Democrats. Good for democracy?

Texas governor claims Texas will build its own border wall
Greg Abbott
Abbott's Wall

Texas governor claims Texas will build its own border wall