America, the Land of Limited Opportunity: We Must Open Our Eyes to the Truth

More first-rate research from the OECD:  “Economic Policy Reforms: Going for Growth 2010“.  Of special interest to Americans is chapter 5:  “A Family Affair: Intergenerational Social Mobility across OECD Countries“.  Like the massive body of research preceeding it, this contracts one of the key myths about America.  A nation that steers by myth, not reality, will eventually crash on the rocks.

The authors carefully avoid pointing fingers or mocking us.  They let the graphics tell the story of increasing inequality of income and declining social mobility — both washing away the foundations of the American Republic.  Worry not about America becoming like Zimbabwe. Worry about becoming like Argentina.


Education is a ladder to social mobility in America.  That’s getting pulled up, even faster now with increases in State tuiton.  This graph shows the result:


For more information about growing inequality of income and falling social mobility in America

  1. Poverty Rose, Median Income Declined, and Job-Based Health Insurance Continued to Weaken in 2008“, Arloc Sherman et al, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 10 September 2009
  2. Share of Aggregate Income Received by Quintile of Households, ugly numbers from the US Census
  3. Changes in the Distribution of Workers’ Annual Earnings Between 1979 and 2007“, Congressional Budget Office, October 2009
  4. Have we fallen behind our parents?“, Katharine Mieszkowski, Salon, 14 May 2008 — “Author Nan Mooney argues that the middle class is slipping, and fixing it is going to take more than cutting out lattes.”
  5. Income inequality and poverty rising in most OECD countries“, OECD, 21 October 2008
  6. Striking it Richer: The Evolution of Top Incomes in the United States“, Emmanuel Saez, 5 August 2009 — First world levels of income; third world income distribution. 
  7. Conservatives and Economic Mobility“, Mark Zeitlin, 10 January 2010
  8. “Inequality, Living Standards, and the Middle Class”, Scott Winship (Pew Economic Mobility Project), Progressive FIX, 12 January 2010 – Part One and Part Two
  9. Top 400 Earners in U.S Averaged $345 Million in 2007, IRS Says“, Bloomberg, 18 February 2010 — “Each household in the top 400 of earners paid an average tax rate of 16.6%, the lowest since the agency began tracking the data in 1992, the Internal Revenue Service statistics show. Their average effective tax rate was about half the 29.4% in 1993…”

Originally published at Fabius Maximus and reproduced here with the author’s permission. 

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