Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Looking at the truth of the American Dream

"Doing better” than one’s parents has long been a key element of the American Dream. The story, embedded in our history and our literature, suggests any person can start from humble beginnings and achieve great wealth, or at least reach the middle class.

But is it true?

The “rags to riches” story is much more common in Hollywood than on Main Street, says a new report from the Economic Mobility Project. Only 6% of children born to parents with family income at the very bottom move to the very top.

Other findings include:
■ The current generation of adults is better off than the previous one but their incomes are more unevenly distributed.The biggest gains have occurred at the top of the distribution and the smallest at the bottom.
■ Two out of three Americans have higher incomes than their parents, while one third are falling behind.
■ Contrary to American beliefs about equality of opportunity, a child’s economic position is heavily influenced by that of his or her parents. Of children born to parents in the bottom fifth of the income distribution, 42% remain in the bottom, while 39% born to parents in the top fifth remain at the top.


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