Questions Related to Pursuing the American Dream

The following information is current and provides food for thought about the current reality of Pursuing the American Dream: Economic Mobility Across Generations (which is the title of the report Written by The Pew Charitable Trusts).

I am sharing what follows because questions come to my mind as I think about this data.

Americans’ relative mobility outcomes by family income show a glass half empty.

Americans raised at the top and bottom of the income ladder are likely to remain there themselves as adults. Forty-three percent of those who start in the bottom are stuck there as adults, and 70 percent remain below the middle quintile. Only 4 percent of adults raised in the bottom make it all the way to the top, showing that the “rags-to-riches” story is more often found in Hollywood than in reality. At the other end of the ladder, 40 percent of those raised in the top stay there as adults, and 63 percent remain above the middle quintile.

This lack of relative mobility is called “stickiness at the ends” because those at the ends of the income distribution tend to be stuck there over a generation. By contrast, those raised in the middle income quintile come closer to experiencing mathematically perfect mobility, in which they are equally likely to end up in each quintile of the distribution.

Mobility by Education

A four-year college degree promotes upward mobility from the bottom and prevents downward mobility from the middle and top.

  •  Almost one-half (47 percent) of those raised in the bottom quintile of the family income ladder who do not earn a college degree are stuck there as adults, compared with 10 percent who do earn a college degree. Similarly, 45 percent without a college degree are stuck in the bottom of the family wealth ladder compared with 20 percent with a degree.
  •  Having a college degree makes a person more than three times more likely to rise from the bottom of the family income ladder all the way to the top, and makes a person more than four times more likely to rise from the bottom of the family wealth ladder to the top.
  • Thirty-nine percent raised in the middle of the family income ladder who do not get a college degree fall from the middle, compared with less than a quarter (22 percent) of those with a degree. Similarly, 39 percent raised in the middle of the family wealth ladder who do not earn a degree fall down the wealth ladder, compared with 19 percent with a degree.

Mobility by Race

Blacks have a harder time exceeding the family income and wealth of their parents than do whites.

  •  Sixty-six percent of blacks raised in the second quintile surpass their parents’ family income compared with 89 percent of whites.
  • Only 23 percent of blacks raised in the middle surpass their parents’ family wealth compared with over half (56 percent) of whites.

Blacks are more likely to be stuck in the bottom and fall from the middle than are whites.

  •  Over half of blacks (53 percent) raised in the bottom of the family income ladder remain stuck in the bottom as adults, compared with only a third (33 percent) of whites. Half of blacks (56 percent) raised in the middle of the family income ladder fall to the bottom two rungs as adults compared with just under a third of whites (32 percent).
  •  Half of blacks (50 percent) raised in the bottom of the family wealth ladder remain stuck in the bottom as adults, compared with only a third (33 percent) of whites. More than two-thirds of blacks (68 percent) raised in the middle fall to the bottom two rungs of the ladder as adults compared with just under a third of whites (30 percent).

The Pew Charitable Trusts is driven by the power of knowledge to solve today’s most challenging problems. Pew applies a rigorous, analytical approach to improve public policy, inform the public and stimulate civic life.  ©July 2012 The Pew Charitable Trusts.

http://www.pewstates.org/uploadedFiles/PCS_Assets/2012/Pursuing_American_Dream.pdf

Here are some of my questions.

~  Do  we as a society find the status quo represented in the data reported above as acceptable as our country moves into the future – or might there be a preferred situation to pursue?

~  What might that preferred situation be?

~  How can we as a society dramatically increase the numbers of young people who achieve at high levels in language arts, math, science and social science in our elementary and high schools across our county?

~  How can we as a society dramatically increase the numbers of young people who have the potential of graduating with four-year degrees should that be their desire?

~  What questions does the data shared above raise in your mind?

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