Economic Mobility: Is the American Dream Alive and Well?

This is an important study that raises some fundamental question about the status of the American Dream. it has an impact on many issues including the potential growth in homelessness and the demand for supportive housing. There was an article on this subject in the June 2007 Atlantic by Clive Cook that may be of interest as well.

A nonpartisan group of researchers, led by Pew Charitable Trust and joined by Brookings Institution, American Enterprise Institute, Urban Institute, and the Heritage Foundation, gathered last week to release the findings of their latest report, “Economic Mobility: Is the American Dream Alive and Well?” This study looked at both absolute and relative economic mobility of men in their thirties. The report found that the opportunity for absolute mobility (the ability to move up or down the socioeconomic ladder in one’s own lifetime) and relative mobility (movement up or down from the previous generation) is not as great as it was over thirty years ago. Additionally, in 1974, the median income for this group was $40,000 while the median income in 2004 was $35,000 (adjusted for inflation.) The findings in this report call into question the fundamental expectation of the American dream: that each generation can do better than the one previous. To read the full report click here. For the website click here.

This is the first paragraph of Mr. Cook’s article entitled “Rags to Rags, Riches to Riches.”.

Maybe it’s time to stop calling America the “land of opportunity.”
by Clive Crook

Opportunity is the crux of the American idea. Opportunity is what the New World has always represented: struggle, risk, self-determination, and the hope of spiritual and material progress. Even now, to new immigrants, that or something like it is the pull—and for them at least, it is no false promise. If you move to America, you move up, and this is true whether you are rafting across the Rio Grande or negotiating the hazards of the H1B visa program. British emigrants (I am one) are fond of Spain and the United States. They go to Spain to retire; they come here to rise to new challenges. This lure, barely diminished after more than three centuries, has ever been an incalculable source of national strength.

To read the full article you need to be an Atlantic subscriber. Click here to finish the article.