About that "land of opportunity" thing:
Loss of economic exceptionalism, by Claude Fischer: One of the key dimensions of “American Exceptionalism” is the idea that America is the land of opportunity more than any other. We would like to believe that American children who are raised in the meanest conditions are likelier to move up in the world than are children elsewhere. Yet, as of today, the U.S. does not provide more upward mobility than other nations do; if anything, young Americans’ economic fortunes are more tied to those of their parents than is true in other western nations. So, where did this image of exceptional mobility come from?
Two economists, Jason Long and Joseph Ferrie, published a study this summer in the American Economic Review that creatively brings together some 19th-century data to argue that there was a time when the U.S. was exceptionally open – or, at least, more open than Britain was. Two pairs of sociologists wrote critical comments on the study (here and here). Yet, even with the controversy, there is a lesson to be learned. ...[discusses controversy]...
But it is fair to conclude – at least, I do – that in the 21st century, the U.S. no longer has an exceptionally open and mobile economy. That may be so because the class system has gotten more rigid here or because it has gotten less rigid elsewhere in the West, or both. In any case, the lesson is that our ideology of being the exceptional land of opportunity is a hangover from a time when it was true – but is no more.