Liberals love rushing in with bad news that damns America, and social mobility studies provide handy buckets of cold water to throw in the faces of flag-waving conservatives. “Heh heh heh…this ain’t such a great place after all…” they seem to be telling us with a mischievous relish. Inevitably, this leads to unhinged attacks on Ronald Reagan and irrational calls for higher taxes...
... Which leads to unfavorable comparisons to Europe, and the conversation turns to wealth transfer schemes and more generous handouts, totally ignoring Europe’s parlous financial state and recent cutbacks in their generous welfare programs.
What the progressives leave out
Depending on how you look at it, the comparisons are not nearly as bad as they would have us believe. One overlooked fact is that overall quality of life has improved for everyone in the US over the last 50 years. We all live longer and consumer products and gadgets that entertain us and make life easier are available to all.
Here's the other side of the coin:
Research for EMP conducted by my colleagues at the Brookings Institution Julia Isaacs, Isabel Sawhill, and Ron Haskins shows that two-thirds of 40-year-old Americans are in households with larger incomes than their parents had at the same age, even taking into account the fact that the cost of living has risen.
That’s pretty impressive, but it actually understates the improvement between generations. Household size declined over these decades, so incomes now are divided up among fewer family members, leaving them better off than bigger households of the past. Another EMP study shows that when incomes are adjusted for household size, four out of five adults today are better off than their parents were at the same age. (Mobility Impaired)There is no social mobility problem among the middle 60-80%. The “stickiness” occurs at the top and bottom.
Among children with parents in the top fifth, 40 percent will remain there themselves, and nearly two-thirds of them will remain in the top two fifths. Again, the point is not that none or few of them deserve to be there. But practices such as legacy admissions to Ivy League schools clearly allow some advantaged children to coast in ways that sap economic growth.The poor...
One study compared the United States with Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, and the United Kingdom. It found that in each country, whether looking at sons or at daughters, 23 to 30 percent of children whose fathers were in the bottom fifth of earnings remained in the bottom fifth themselves as adults — except in the United States, where 42 percent of sons remained there (Mobility Impaired)Progressives enjoy damning the rich…
If it were learned that the car driven by the average American is 10 times more likely to burst into flames than the car driven by the richest 1%, what should the policy response be? Should it be to mandate that cars driven by the rich burst into flames more often?(The Inequality Obsession)Many on the left seem to be advocating for that approach. Redistribution schemes won’t work and they are un-American. On the other hand, we should all be for scraping the rent-seeking leeches from the ship of state and purging the corporate moles from our government. Our federal government serves the rich and mindlessly bribes the rest of us without truly focusing in on those who really need help, and it needs to stop. Beyond that, I see nothing wrong with rich people and their progeny stubbornly clinging to the top so long as they are doing it legally.
Helping the bottom 20% help themselves
Clearly, we need to focus on providing those on the bottom a ladder out. Data shows that education and family stability are key factors in escaping poverty
Walter E Williams has observed that following these steps leads to success every time:
* Graduate high school
* Get married before you have children
* If you get married, stay married
* Get a job, any job. A minimum wage job is a stepping stone
* Avoid engaging in criminal behavior
As a society, we should throw in the elimination of school districts drawn up by the rich to wall themselves off from the poor. We should also embrace innovations like a longer school day where homework is done at school since we know many students go home to an environment not conducive to getting your studies done. Let's face that fact and find a way to deal with it.
Putting the pointing fingers away and helping the bottom 20% help themselves is infinitely more productive than engaging in eat the rich rhetoric.
Let not him who is houseless pull down the house of another, but let him work diligently and build one for himself, thus by example assuring that his own shall be safe from violence when built. -- Abraham Lincoln
Update: I've asked Ducky to put up or shut up, so I'll do the same. Here are three posts where I talk about poverty in America. In each of the posts are links to authoritative sources that support Dr Williams's Steps to Success.
Poverty and Immorality go Hand in Hand
Child Poverty and Single Childhood
Here's further food for thought:
Is Social Mobility Overrated?
The Inequality Obsession