Charting the Outrageous Decline in Social Mobility in America
A research breakthrough is needed to reverse the stagnation in social mobility across America.
In a controversial study, the authors claim that rising inequality leads to stagnating social mobility.
Researchers are questioning whether America is getting more class-divided than ever before. They claim that the process of becoming more economically stratified puts those on the bottom at a real disadvantage.
The science has long shown that rising inequality makes it increasingly difficult for children to climb the social ladder. As income inequality grows, it takes an even longer time for the middle class to get better off.
It looks like the advancement of capitalism is supposed to do something with its size. Well, not if our politicians don’t start to do anything about it.
The slight downtick in poverty over the past decade might be attributed to the shrinking of the work force because there are now less people employed than there was in the early 90s. So, you might say, wages are now falling and this is most likely a real factor for the steady decline in upward mobility in America.
But with the same number of people in the work force, the wages are falling and this is pushing people further in the same downward socio-economic loop.
Professor Gary Becker of the University of Chicago led the research that claims recent years have seen a shrinking of the middle class. Becker and his team compared the incomes of three groups, economically advantaged children in the 1960s, disadvantaged children from earlier in the century, and economically disadvantaged children today.
What the study revealed was that those on the lower end of the class ladder are not only suffering more but they’re also staying there longer. When you want to become wealthier, you have to move the highest rung – which only exists in America, according to this study.
Professor Becker took into account characteristics such as education, race, occupation, and income in order to predict social mobility. He found that in the early 2000s, one in six lower-income children was likely to move higher in the next three generations. By 2014, that number had shrunk to one in 23. So, the average American lower class baby is practically stuck.
Boomers are becoming more isolated
College at the young age of 18 has been on the rise in the U.S. for some time. The “Aging Boomers” (the 75-plus set) are aging, and there are now more people in the “Crippled Boomers” or “Dead Babies” group than the traditional retirees group.
Researchers also studied the impact of poverty. One group of poor people who were eligible for food stamps were given a quiz to test whether or not they had children. The smarter people on the test passed because they had children of their own. But, they forgot about the question later in life when they needed help.
So, the oldest people in America are also turning into the biggest laggards when it comes to economic mobility.
Changes are imminent
The rising levels of income inequality could really determine how much America will differ in 20 years. This could contribute to fewer jobs in the future, even while the workforce continues to increase.
Hopefully, Social Security, Medicare, and perhaps even Social Security disability will provide enough income support to those on the lower rungs of the socio-economic ladder, helping to keep upward mobility alive.
Other countries have found solutions to help keep upward mobility alive as well. Japan has benefits that help struggling working people stay better off, and Brazil is attempting to pay for kids in the poorest areas to attend elementary school.
It’s essential that America take note of these innovations and make changes to increase economic mobility in the future. The stability of America will be severely weakened if we don’t.
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This article originally appeared on Extratex.