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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