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Deflating the American Myth

Geo Patric

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The most current version of the American Dream is that of 'upward mobility'... always room at the top, each generation doing better than the one before it.

Unfortunately, it is not true and never really has been. The supposed phenomenon has been reported on many times but manages to persist against all evidence to the contrary.The rich stay rich, the poor stay poor and those in the middle move very little. What movement does occur may go in either direction. The Center For American Progress provided a nice summary of the facts a few years ago:
Children from low-income families have only a 1 percent chance of reaching the top 5 percent of the income distribution, versus children of the rich who have about a 22 percent chance.

Children born to the middle quintile of parental family income had about the same chance of ending up in a lower quintile than their parents as they did of moving to a higher quintile . Their chances of attaining the top five percentiles of the income distribution were just 1.8 percent.

African American children who are born in the bottom quartile are nearly twice as likely to remain there as adults than are white children whose parents had identical incomes, and are four times less likely to attain the top quartile.

The difference in mobility for blacks and whites persists even after controlling for a host of parental background factors, children’s education and health, as well as whether the household was female-headed or receiving public assistance.

By international standards, the United States has an unusually low level of intergenerational mobility: our parents’ income is highly predictive of our incomes as adults. Intergenerational mobility in the United States is lower than in France, Germany, Sweden, Canada, Finland, Norway and Denmark. Among high-income countries for which comparable estimates are available, only the United Kingdom had a lower rate of mobility than the United States.
- Understanding Mobility in America, Tom Hertz, American University

and we are spending more and more to stay the same. 30 years ago, you could start a fine career with a HS diploma... not even a B.A. might lead to McDonalds.

wealth disparity is a defining aspect of unrestrained capitalism. Note the "socialist" nations that exceed our own mobility.

geo.
 

RightinNYC

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The most current version of the American Dream is that of 'upward mobility'... always room at the top, each generation doing better than the one before it.

Unfortunately, it is not true and never really has been. The supposed phenomenon has been reported on many times but manages to persist against all evidence to the contrary.The rich stay rich, the poor stay poor and those in the middle move very little. What movement does occur may go in either direction. The Center For American Progress provided a nice summary of the facts a few years ago:

- Understanding Mobility in America, Tom Hertz, American University

and we are spending more and more to stay the same. 30 years ago, you could start a fine career with a HS diploma... not even a B.A. might lead to McDonalds.

Why am I not surprised that CAP chooses to highlight a study that focuses on the chances of making into the richest 5%? Newsflash: that's not the only measure of social mobility.

An interesting table on social mobility:

16_02_02_table2.jpg


Someone born to a parent in the poorest 25% has a 60% chance of moving out of that quartile, including a 15% chance of making it into the richest quartile. Someone born to a parent in the richest 25% has a 58% chance of dropping out of that quartile, including a 12% chance of falling to the poorest quartile.

http://www.debatepolitics.com/off-t...et-richer-poor-get-poorer.html#post1058826309

I think that's pretty decent.


wealth disparity is a defining aspect of unrestrained capitalism. Note the "socialist" nations that exceed our own mobility.

So you're arguing that a higher percentage of people changing quartiles is better? How far does that go? What's the ideal number?
 
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The most current version of the American Dream is that of 'upward mobility'... always room at the top, each generation doing better than the one before it.

Unfortunately, it is not true and never really has been. The supposed phenomenon has been reported on many times but manages to persist against all evidence to the contrary.The rich stay rich, the poor stay poor and those in the middle move very little. What movement does occur may go in either direction. The Center For American Progress provided a nice summary of the facts a few years ago:

- Understanding Mobility in America, Tom Hertz, American University

and we are spending more and more to stay the same. 30 years ago, you could start a fine career with a HS diploma... not even a B.A. might lead to McDonalds.

wealth disparity is a defining aspect of unrestrained capitalism. Note the "socialist" nations that exceed our own mobility.

geo.

I don't agree with you at all. The American Dream is alive and well. Many a blue-collor worker earns a good enough living to send his kids to college to become doctors and lawyers. And, WOW! WHAT A COUNTRY! Don't have enough to pay for your kids' college educations? There's plenty of help. Immigrants come to the USA by the droves to pursue it. And a great many of them attain it. The poor only stay poor if they want to, pure and simple.
 

Geo Patric

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So you're arguing that a higher percentage of people changing quartiles is better?

where did you get that? I noted that those nations that staunch capitalists condmen as 'socialist' because they do not allow their citizens to starve to death appear to realize the American Dream more than do Americans.

geo.
 

RightinNYC

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where did you get that? I noted that those nations that staunch capitalists condmen as 'socialist' because they do not allow their citizens to starve to death appear to realize the American Dream more than do Americans.

geo.

You said that social mobility is the American dream. You criticized us for not having as much social mobility as those countries.

I'm asking you what you think is the ideal amount of social mobility.
 

Geo Patric

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I don't agree with you at all. The American Dream is alive and well. Many a blue-collor worker earns a good enough living to send his kids to college to become doctors and lawyers. And, WOW! WHAT A COUNTRY! Don't have enough to pay for your kids' college educations? There's plenty of help. Immigrants come to the USA by the droves to pursue it. And a great many of them attain it. The poor only stay poor if they want to, pure and simple.

well, of coursr you do not agree... you are a true believer!

but this is another case where faith and fact do not come very close to looking much alike.

geo.
 

RightinNYC

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well, of coursr you do not agree... you are a true believer!

but this is another case where faith and fact do not come very close to looking much alike.

geo.

60% of the people born to the poorest quartile make their way into a higher quartile, including 33% who make it into the upper half. The facts and the faith seem pretty close from where I sit.
 

Geo Patric

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I'm asking you what you think is the ideal amount of social mobility.

as much upward mobility as reasonable for the poor, as much downward as necessary for the rich.

reasonable here defined as "allowing for enough of what we all need as we all need".
geo.
 

RightinNYC

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as much upward mobility as reasonable for the poor, as much downward as necessary for the rich.

reasonable here defined as "allowing for enough of what we all need as we all need".
geo.

If you don't have any idea of what the numbers should be, then how do you know that the US figures aren't spot on? Why aren't you criticizing those European countries for having too much?

It's pretty ridiculous to criticize one set of numbers when you have no idea of what the numbers should be.
 

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60% of the people born to the poorest quartile make their way into a higher quartile, including 33% who make it into the upper half. The facts and the faith seem pretty close from where I sit.

i posted about this earlier......the divide is growing as we speak.
 

Geo Patric

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Why am I not surprised that CAP chooses to highlight a study that focuses on the chances of making into the richest 5%?

firstly, CAP discusses the report... they did not write it. again, it was written by Tom Hertz, American University. if you wanted to, you could read the report itself... a link is included on the CAP page...

oh, hell... here it is.

secondly, as i say, that was ONE report. there are lots that come to the same conclusion.

A report prepared by Ian Dew-Becker and Robert Gordon for the National Bureau of Economic Research in December 2005 shows that those in the top 10 percent income bracket received 49 percent of the growth in wages and salaries in the period between 1997 and 2001, while the bottom 50 percent received less than 13 percent.

The National Bureau of Economic Research confirms Dew-Becker:
the pattern of annual earnings inequality is very close to the pattern of inequality of longer term earnings. Mobility at the top has also been very stable and has not mitigated the dramatic increase in annual earnings concentration since the 1970s. .. . The decrease in the gender earnings gap and the substantial increase in upward mobility over a career for women is the driving force behind the relative stability of overall mobility measures which mask declines in mobility among men.
(sorry, you must be a subscriber to read the report itself.)

in other words.... the only ones moving up are women. and THAT has to do with an entirely different social paradigm.

and thirdly, that 5% bit was ONE point... a more salient one would be that middle class (middle quintile) has no better a chance of moving UP then they did of moving DOWN.

here is another: The median household was no more upwardly mobile in 2003-04, a year when GDP grew strongly, than it was it was during the recession of 1990-91.

think about that for a bit. another myth is that of 'creating wealth'. this is almost impossible. the resources of the planet are fixed and all of it is owned. Most of it has been exploited and is only recylcling. the amount of real wealth is fixed. wealth moves. for one to get richer almost certainly involves someone else getting poorer.

i checked that link you posted... but found no such information.

geo.
 

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If you don't have any idea of what the numbers should be, then how do you know that the US figures aren't spot on? Why aren't you criticizing those European countries for having too much?

It's pretty ridiculous to criticize one set of numbers when you have no idea of what the numbers should be.

Personally, I think if we are looking at quintiles, ideally it should all be 25%. Each generation should have a chance at their own success and what their parents did should have no bearing. I just know of not equitable way to achieve that.

Also, your chart is horribly outdated.
 

Geo Patric

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If you don't have any idea of what the numbers should be, then how do you know that the US figures aren't spot on? Why aren't you criticizing those European countries for having too much?

It's pretty ridiculous to criticize one set of numbers when you have no idea of what the numbers should be.

oh, please!

that is simply dumb.

geo.
 

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firstly, CAP discusses the report... they did not write it.

That's why I said "highlight" instead of "author."

again, it was written by Tom Hertz, American University. if you wanted to, you could read the report itself... a link is included on the CAP page...

oh, hell... here it is.

I skimmed it when you first posted it. Then I posted something that offered a less narrow view, something that you've not yet responded to.

secondly, as i say, that was ONE report. there are lots that come to the same conclusion.

A report prepared by Ian Dew-Becker and Robert Gordon for the National Bureau of Economic Research in December 2005 shows that those in the top 10 percent income bracket received 49 percent of the growth in wages and salaries in the period between 1997 and 2001, while the bottom 50 percent received less than 13 percent.

Which doesn't have anything to do with social mobility, which is the topic of the thread. The rich becoming richer as a whole says nothing about what chunk of people in each group are moving up or down.

The National Bureau of Economic Research confirms Dew-Becker:

(sorry, you must be a subscriber to read the report itself.)

in other words.... the only ones moving up are women. and THAT has to do with an entirely different social paradigm.

Again, short on actual numbers.

and thirdly, that 5% bit was ONE point... a more salient one would be that middle class (middle quintile) has no better a chance of moving UP then they did of moving DOWN.

And this is surprising because....? Why would you expect anything different?

here is another: The median household was no more upwardly mobile in 2003-04, a year when GDP grew strongly, than it was it was during the recession of 1990-91.

Why should social mobility be greater or weaker in times of recession v times of growth?

think about that for a bit. another myth is that of 'creating wealth'. this is almost impossible. the resources of the planet are fixed and all of it is owned. Most of it has been exploited and is only recylcling. the amount of real wealth is fixed. wealth moves. for one to get richer almost certainly involves someone else getting poorer.

Which means what, exactly?

Personally, I think if we are looking at quintiles, ideally it should all be 25%. Each generation should have a chance at their own success and what their parents did should have no bearing. I just know of not equitable way to achieve that.

I don't know any way to achieve that, much less an equitable way. Unless you plan on taking all children from their parents at birth and redistributing them by lottery, it's not possible to even come close to minimizing the differences.

Also, your chart is horribly outdated.

It's the only one I found that put it in such an informative format. Also, if you read the link in geopatric's OP, the underlying numbers haven't changed dramatically over the past decade.
 

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I don't know any way to achieve that, much less an equitable way. Unless you plan on taking all children from their parents at birth and redistributing them by lottery, it's not possible to even come close to minimizing the differences.

Yeah, its an ideal, where everyone gets a fair shake at success and we have a true meritocracy instead of what we have now.

It's the only one I found that put it in such an informative format. Also, if you read the link in geopatric's OP, the underlying numbers haven't changed dramatically over the past decade.

The past decade doesn't surprise me much as we have pretty much had economic stagnation since the recession in 2001.
 

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Compelling response.

i'm sorry, but it was. Aside from the fact that I am not a noble prize in economics recipient nor a dictator, there is no "right balance" of material wealth aside from ensuring that we do not have people who do without what they need. whatever numbers produce THAT result are good numbers.

geo.
 

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i'm sorry, but it was. Aside from the fact that I am not a noble prize in economics recipient nor a dictator, there is no "right balance" of material wealth aside from ensuring that we do not have people who do without what they need. whatever numbers produce THAT result are good numbers.

geo.

You started a thread that criticized the US for its lack of social mobility based on a particular set of numbers. If you don't have any idea of what those numbers should be, then how can you know that our current numbers are too low?
 

Geo Patric

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You started a thread that criticized the US for its lack of social mobility based on a particular set of numbers. If you don't have any idea of what those numbers should be, then how can you know that our current numbers are too low?

you are playing games. you are, again, trying to stifle the discussion by nullifying it. those numbers are generated by professional economists over years of time. here is another - The PEW Center's Economic Mobility Project report says:
As adults, 42 percent of children born into the bottom quintile, and 39 percent born into the top quintile end up in the same quintile as their parents. This is referred to as “stickiness at the ends.”

Median family income in the top quintile grew by 52 percent over the last generation, compared to 18 percent in the bottom quintile. (

More than 50 percent of individuals who start in the bottom income quintile remain there 10 years later, and 70 percent remain below middle-income status. Despite notable changes in the U.S. economy, this immobility at the bottom has remained unchanged since the 1980s.
there HAS been increase in middle quintile median income as a result of the economic boom of the 90's - of course, that is largely offset by CoL increases. And of course, much of that has been lost over the last few years.

what should be asked is not "is it true?", of course its true. what should be asked is "WHY is this important"?

the pretense that anyone can get rich with a little hard work is what supports the persistant inequality. THAT is the myth. Worse, it is a lie propagated to maintain the status quo. The probability of working oneself into an elevated economic class is little better than depending on the lottery.

geo.
 
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RightinNYC

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you are playing games. you are, again, trying to stifle the discussion by nullifying it.

lol, no.

I am pointing out that you're really not understanding the significance of the numbers you're posting. Again, you're complaining that we don't have enough social mobility because the percentage of people who move between groups is low. I'm asking you what constitutes "low" and what would be enough. You have no idea. If you don't know what the numbers should be, it's foolish to say that you think the numbers are too low or high.

those numbers are generated by professional economists over years of time. here is another - The PEW Center's Economic Mobility Project report says:

Do you realize that those numbers are essentially identical to the numbers I posted in my initial response?

Seriously. Look at your numbers, then look at the chart I posted.

there HAS been increase in middle quintile median income as a result of the economic boom of the 90's - of course, that is largely offset by CoL increases. And of course, much of that has been lost over the last few years.

Once again, you're confusing social mobility (the movement of people from one group to another) with income growth within each group.

what should be asked is not "is it true?", of course its true. what should be asked is "WHY is this important"?

the pretense that anyone can get rich with a little hard work is what supports the persistant inequality. THAT is the myth. Worse, it is a lie propagated to maintain the status quo. The probability of working oneself into an elevated economic class is little better than depending on the lottery.

No, the probability of working oneself into an elevated economic class is 6/10 for those born in the poorest quartile. I'm not sure what lottery you participate in, but those odds are pretty good.
 
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I don't agree with you at all. The American Dream is alive and well. Many a blue-collor worker earns a good enough living to send his kids to college to become doctors and lawyers. And, WOW! WHAT A COUNTRY! Don't have enough to pay for your kids' college educations? There's plenty of help. Immigrants come to the USA by the droves to pursue it. And a great many of them attain it. The poor only stay poor if they want to, pure and simple.



The 12 guys on my dorm floor freshman year at Yale included

1) the son of a disabled NY firefighter

2) a son of a milk farmer from NH an "acadian" the first person in his family to go to college

3) a Jamaican guy from Queens who didn't have a father and his mother worked in a diner

4) two Mexican American guys-don't recall much about their backgrounds but they weren't rolling in bucks-they were good guys and I recall picking up their bar tab a bunch of times

The rest were fairly affluent-one guy was the son of an Episcopal Bishop and had gone to Groton-another had 1600 SATs-#1 in one of the top 4 prep schools in the USA-dropped out from too much coke-now referees HS Soccer games.

That my friend is upward and downward mobility
 

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You started a thread that criticized the US for its lack of social mobility based on a particular set of numbers. If you don't have any idea of what those numbers should be, then how can you know that our current numbers are too low?

welfare socialism retards upward mobility. Its an opiate for t he poor and punishes the hard working frugal ambitious types who have much of their income and then estates raped by the government. The welfare state insulates the uber-wealthy and that is why so many of them support it. IN a society where there is less of a social net, more fail but more will succeed
 

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The 12 guys on my dorm floor freshman year at Yale included

1) the son of a disabled NY firefighter

2) a son of a milk farmer from NH an "acadian" the first person in his family to go to college

3) a Jamaican guy from Queens who didn't have a father and his mother worked in a diner

4) two Mexican American guys-don't recall much about their backgrounds but they weren't rolling in bucks-they were good guys and I recall picking up their bar tab a bunch of times

The rest were fairly affluent-one guy was the son of an Episcopal Bishop and had gone to Groton-another had 1600 SATs-#1 in one of the top 4 prep schools in the USA-dropped out from too much coke-now referees HS Soccer games.

That my friend is upward and downward mobility

just wondering. Was the prep school Hopkins which is also in New Haven.
 
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