Friday, February 19, 2010

Reflections on the American Dream - column from the FT

I did alot of reading over the past few days, trying nightly to recover from skiing with my 16 year old daughter. I'll be posting a couple of book reviews this weekend on these books.

When I got home this evening, however, I came across this column from Clive Crook of the Financial Times. It echoes some of the same thoughts that Malcolm Gladwell writes about in his best-selling book Outliers, which I'll review later. However, it is an interesting perspective from a British writer.

Excerpt here, link follows:

Reflections on the American dream

February 19, 2010 11:47pm

Back in November I wrote glowingly in a column for the FT about Creating an Opportunity Society, a new book by Isabel Sawhill and Ron Haskins. Earlier this week I attended a dinner with other journalists, scholars, and policy-makers to talk over some of its ideas. The conversation (off the record, in any event) was frustrating, because the budgetary obstacles to any action requiring outlays are so severe at the moment. If nothing else, though, it moved me to recommend the book again. It’s the best thing of its kind I’ve read for a long time.

The finding that would surprise most Americans is that the American dream is something of a fraud. Intergenerational social mobility–your chances of moving up from poverty, or down from great wealth–are lower in the US than in most of Europe. This is something I have written about before. Research suggests plenty of mobility in the middle part of US income distribution, but not much at the ends. The American dream is a kind of opportunity club, and the very poor and very rich aren’t members.