Economic mobility is little more than a myth for most people who grow up in families with low incomes. A child born in poverty in the early 1980s had single-digit chances of having a high income as an adult. If we want to simply raise incomes from one generation to the next, we’re failing. Nearly all Americans born in 1940 had incomes higher than their parents’ by the time they reached the same age, but today, only half of adults born in 1980 make more than their parents did.
Racial inequality exacerbates that overall decline in mobility. More than half of Black children born in the bottom income quintile stay there as adults, compared to about a third of white children. Perhaps more surprisingly, Black middle-class boys are twice as likely as white middle-class boys to move down the income distribution by the time they’re adults. This reality isn’t the American Dream.
The above excerpt was originally published in RealClearPolicy.
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