Poverty And Class In America

There’s been a lot of discussion surrounding the mobility between classes here in America.  At the same time, there’s been a lot of discussion surrounding the importance of education.  Not only getting a high school diploma but on getting a college one as well.  In fact, it’s gone so far as to have people calling for free college education for all Americans.  The argument is that the rich get richer while the poor get poorer.  That income mobility in America is restricted.  That attaining wealth is more and more becoming reserved for the pre-existing well to do’s.

For a long time I’ve fought this belief.  I’ve fought the idea that America is not the land of opportunity.  That we’ve somehow lost the idea that if you work hard enough you can do anything.

I’ve fought it.

And now I’m reading a book, The Bell Curve, and I’ve seen some interesting data.  For example, it seems to be important where you come from if you wanna avoid poverty:

If you’re born to a family with very low socioeconomic class, you have an 8 times better chance to find yourself in poverty than if you were born to a family with a very high socioeconomic status.

It would seem that class matters.

Further, when it comes to wages, the data suggests that there is an education gap that would strengthen the argument that we need to increase college degrees to our kids:

It’s hard to argue the numbers.  High school droop-outs are seeing their wages drop by double digits while college graduates are seeing double digit increases.

Interesting data to be sure.

 

 

5 responses to “Poverty And Class In America

  1. This class “stickiness” is what drives me, and most other liberals, absolutely insane. It’s actually a nice way of seeing the difference between liberals and socialists, too. A socialist would like to see everybody end up in the same economic situation (roughly). A liberal, on the other hand, would just like to see no correlation between the economic status of a parent and the eventual economic status of the child. Liberals aren’t opposed to people being poor and people being rich, we’re just opposed to rich people being able to lock poor people out of their class. That lack of class mobility is what drives most of us today.

    • A liberal, on the other hand, would just like to see no correlation between the economic status of a parent and the eventual economic status of the child. Liberals aren’t opposed to people being poor and people being rich, we’re just opposed to rich people being able to lock poor people out of their class.

      I get that. Well, actually, the open acknowledgement of winners and losers is new to me, but the whole idea that wealth/class be “handed down” smacks of feudal fiefdoms where literally, positions in life were inherited. The Prince had prince kids, the butcher’s sons grew up to be butchers and the farmer grew farmer families.

      So here’s a question. Suppose that we control, mostly, for parent’s success, and provide an equal and level playing field for all kids. That is, the poor kid had the same access to success as the rich kid. Do you think we’d see success grouping along some other criteria or would it be truly random?

      Maybe another way of looking at that would be to ask:

      Is there something that makes people successful and is it possible that “something” is not position in life? A good way of considering this is, “Do tall people tend to have tall children at higher or lower rates than short people?”

  2. There’s a lot of other secondary indicators of success that will still matter. In general, a kid with two college-educated parents is going to have a different kind of emphasis on school than a kid with two high-school dropout parents. Houses with less income have less to spend on educational toys and activities at home. They have less money to spend on books, museum trips, etc. A $500 computer for the kids is a given in a higher income house, it’s an unaffordable luxury in many lower income houses. If you can completely control for every one of those indirect advantages, I bet you’d see no correlation between parent and child income classes.

    After all, what is going to cause a child to be tied to his parents’ income status, unless you want to talk about poor people being genetically inferior or something.

    • If you can completely control for every one of those indirect advantages, I bet you’d see no correlation between parent and child income classes.

      Right. I think that’s what we all want and believe. However, would you see correlation with some other thing or attribute?

      After all, what is going to cause a child to be tied to his parents’ income status, unless you want to talk about poor people being genetically inferior or something.

      Is there another way to describe that condition or attribute that might be more present in some or more absent in others that is less emotionally charged than “inferior?”

  3. Pingback: Poverty: Socioeconomic Impacts – The Bell Curve | Tarheel Red

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