Revisiting the Land of Opportunity

“Our success should depend not on accident of birth, but on the strength of our work ethic and the scope of our dreams.” So President Obama proclaimed in his 2014 State of the Union Address, adding: “Opportunity is who we are.”

Yet in the same speech, just a few paragraphs before, the President acknowledged that the American Dream is elusive for many: “Average wages have barely budged,” he noted. “Inequality has deepened. Upward mobility has stalled.”

President Obama is not alone, neither in his yearning nor his gloom. Many Americans echo his view that economic realities are falling far short of the American Dream that defines our national ethos. Americans are losing confidence in the basic fairness of the system, and despairing of real opportunities for financial mobility. Indeed, fewer and fewer Americans–including many middle-class Americans–believe that they can even preserve their existing standard of living–or that their children will do any better.

But how accurate are these perceptions? Is social mobility declining, and inequality growing in fact? Surprisingly, no research has actually checked the accuracy of these public perceptions. Americans seem to assume that there is less opportunity now than for previous generations, but is this the reality that most Americans actually —> Read More Here


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