Part of the bedrock of “American exceptionalism” is the belief that America is the land of opportunity. Whether you’re pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps (and defying the laws of physics!) or picking yourself up from the ditch, you can accomplish anything you want in America. You’re only limited by your levels of effort and determination.*
Unfortunately, the evidence doesn’t support such optimism. Indeed, according to one researcher, “the rags-to-riches story is especially unlikely in the U.S.”. Compared to most other Western countries, social mobility is extremely limited in the United States. If you’re born into a poor family, chances are that you’ll stay poor. Below is an interesting graph from the OECD that compares “the extent to which sons’ earnings levels reflect those of their fathers”.
Can anyone offer any thoughts?
*Of course, if you fail, it’s your own fault, but let’s not dwell on that…