“Birth Lottery” intact in America

From Jim Tankersley in today’s Washington Post:

Children growing up in America today are just as likely — no more, no less — to climb the economic ladder as children born more than a half-century ago, a team of economists reported Thursday. Even though social movements have delivered better career opportunities for women and minorities and government grants have made college more accessible, one thing has stayed constant: If you are growing up poor today, you appear to have the same odds of staying poor in adulthood that your grandparents did.

The landmark new study, from a group led by Harvard’s Raj Chetty, suggests that any advances in opportunity provided by expanded social programs have been offset by other changes in economic conditions. Increased trade and advanced technology, for instance, have closed off traditional sources of middle-income jobs.

The findings also suggest that who your parents are and how much they earn is more consequential for American youths today than ever before. That’s because the difference between the bottom and the top of the economic ladder has grown much more stark, but climbing the ladder hasn’t gotten any easier.Those findings add up to a surprising take on the status of the iconic American Dream, and they cast Washington’s roiling debate about the consequences of economic inequality in a new light.The paper suggests that “it is not true that mobility itself is getting lower,” said Lawrence F. Katz, a Harvard economist and mobility scholar who was not one of the paper’s authors but has reviewed the findings. “What’s really changed is the consequences of it. Because there’s so much inequality, people born near the bottom tend to stay near the bottom, and that’s much more consequential than it was 50 years ago.”

Read the full article,
Economic mobility hasn’t changed in a half-century in America, economists declare

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