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Idea of the Day: Larger Middle Classes Mean More Economic Mobility

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Areas with large middle classes enjoy far more economic mobility than areas with small middle classes. Consequently, low-income children who grow up in regions with large middle classes are likely to become more financially successful than those who do not. This finding provides powerful new evidence that a strong middle class and economic opportunity go hand in hand.

Despite our plentiful political disagreements, Americans share a common commitment to equality of opportunity. Indeed, a remarkable 97 percent of Americans believe that every person should have an equal opportunity to get ahead in life.

Yet over the past few decades, a child’s chance of succeeding in life has become increasingly dependent on the circumstances into which he or she is born. Children of low-income parents tend to grow up to earn lower incomes themselves, while children of affluent parents tend to remain affluent. More than 4 in 10 children who start at the bottom stay at the bottom, and close to 4 in 10 children who start at the top stay at the top. If we aspire to give every child the chance to achieve the American Dream, we must do better. We must clearly understand the determinants of economic opportunity and craft solutions that will help to reignite it.

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To speak with our experts on this topic, please contact:

Print: Katie Peters (economy, education, poverty, Half in Ten Education Fund)
202.741.6285 or kpeters@americanprogress.org

Print: Anne Shoup (foreign policy and national security, energy, LGBT issues, health care, gun-violence prevention)
202.481.7146 or ashoup@americanprogress.org

Print: Crystal Patterson (immigration)
202.478.6350 or cpatterson@americanprogress.org

Print: Madeline Meth (women's issues, Legal Progress, higher education)
202.741.6277 or mmeth@americanprogress.org

Spanish-language and ethnic media: Tanya Arditi
202.741.6258 or tarditi@americanprogress.org

TV: Lindsay Hamilton
202.483.2675 or lhamilton@americanprogress.org

Radio: Chelsea Kiene
202.478.5328 or ckiene@americanprogress.org

 

This is part of a regular column: Idea of the Day

For more from the same column, click here