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Friday, November 02, 2012

'America’s Opportunity Gap'

A few passages from an article by Lane Kenworthy on the inequality of opportunity, and what we might do about it:

America’s opportunity gap, by Lane Kenworthy: ... For all the differences between Democrats and Republicans that were laid bare during the 2012 U.S. presidential campaign, the parties’ standard-bearers, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, do seem to have agreed on one thing: the importance of equal opportunity. ... It is no accident that both campaigns chose to emphasize equality of opportunity. It has long been at the center of the American ethos. ...
...there is general consensus among social scientists on a few basic points. First, an American born into a family in the bottom fifth of incomes between the mid-1960s and the mid-1980s has roughly a 30 percent chance of reaching the middle fifth or higher in adulthood, whereas an American born into the top fifth has an 80 percent chance of ending up in the middle fifth or higher. (In a society with perfectly equal opportunity, every person would have the same chance...) This discrepancy means that there is considerable inequality of opportunity among Americans from different family backgrounds.
Second, inequality of opportunity has increased in recent decades. ... Third, in a sharp reversal of historical trends, there is now less equality of opportunity in the United States than in most other wealthy democratic nations. ...
So how did the United States get here? Why did it falter where other nations have not? And how can it fix the problem? On the right, a standard proposal is to strengthen families. On the left, a recent favorite is to reduce income inequality. And everyone supports improving education. To know which proposals would work best, it helps to understand the roots of the new opportunity gap. ...

    Posted by on Friday, November 2, 2012 at 12:24 AM in Economics, Income Distribution | Permalink  Comments (33)


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