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Saturday, February 16, 2013

'Equal Opportunity, Our National Myth'

Joe Stiglitz:

Equal Opportunity, Our National Myth, by Joe Stiglitz, Commentary, NY Times: President Obama's second Inaugural Address used soaring language to reaffirm America's commitment to the dream of equality of opportunity...
The gap between aspiration and reality could hardly be wider. Today, the United States has less equality of opportunity than almost any other advanced industrial country. Study after study has exposed the myth that America is a land of opportunity. This is especially tragic:... there is near-universal consensus that inequality of opportunity is indefensible. ...

And:

How do we explain this? Some of it has to do with persistent discrimination. ... Of course, there are other forces at play, some of which start even before birth. Children in affluent families get more exposure to reading and less exposure to environmental hazards. Their families can afford enriching experiences like music lessons and summer camp. They get better nutrition and health care, which enhance their learning, directly and indirectly. ...
In some cases it seems as if policy has actually been designed to reduce opportunity: government support for many state schools has been steadily gutted..., especially in the last few years. Meanwhile, students are crushed by giant student loan debts that are almost impossible to discharge, even in bankruptcy. This is happening at the same time that a college education is more important than ever for getting a good job. ...
And increasingly even a college degree isn't enough; one needs either a graduate degree or a series of (often unpaid) internships. Those at the top have the connections and social capital to get those opportunities. Those in the middle and bottom don't. The point is that no one makes it on his or her own. And those at the top get more help from their families than do those lower down on the ladder. Government should help to level the playing field.
Americans are coming to realize that their cherished narrative of social and economic mobility is a myth. ... Without substantial policy changes, our self-image, and the image we project to the world, will diminish...

    Posted by on Saturday, February 16, 2013 at 03:53 PM in Economics, Equity, Income Distribution | Permalink  Comments (64)

          


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