Tuesday, February 06, 2007

A Dream Deferred

NPR is running a series on income inequality. Part One is called "A View From the Top," and features this disturbing snippet:

Despite the fervent belief among Americans that we all have a chance to make it to the top, recent studies suggest the United States is actually among the least economically mobile of the big industrialized countries.

Just pause over that for a moment. Perhaps the most deeply-held article of American faith is in individual achievement. We believe, we learn to believe, that we can be anything we want to be if we work hard enough. It undergirds the American sociopolitical worldview, this idea that we have a meritocracy open to all, and that with hard work and unremitting determination, the humblest can rise to the top. It drives our policy, our mythology, and our actions.

Is it true?

2 comments:

Strange Bird said...

I've never believed that to be true. Maybe at one time it was, but at the same time as we talk about this meritocracy, we also commonly hear people say that "it takes money to make money." That does not support the idea of upward mobility.

mOOm said...

The US probably has the biggest variation in grade school quality and varying cost of access to higher education of any developed economy. So it's not so surprising that in fact now the US is supposedly less socially mobile than other developed economies.

When I first came to the US I met a lot of Americans who I sensed were disappointed that it was harder to succeed than they had been led to believe growing up. In Britain no-one told us we could be anything or do anything. In fact it is more common to tell people that they weren't going to succeed. At least you won't be disappointed that way. I'm always surprised with how successful I have been so far.