Thursday, January 5, 2012

Class Conscious

I have always found it curious that America's mythos is that there are no class distinctions. My observations and experiences suggest otherwise. Having lived and traveled in parts of the world where class distinctions have long been important aspects of culture, I don't see great differences between there and here. Class distinctions are also economic distinctions, and it appears that the rich are getting ever richer and the rest are fighting for the crumbs.

New research support my observations and gives us evidence that America may have a more rigid economic class system that other industrialized nations.

"Despite frequent references to the United States as a classless society, about 62 percent of Americans (male and female) raised in the top fifth of incomes stay in the top two-fifths, according to research by the Economic Mobility Project of the Pew Charitable Trusts. Similarly, 65 percent born in the bottom fifth stay in the bottom two-fifths.
By emphasizing the influence of family background, the studies not only challenge American identity but speak to the debate about inequality. While liberals often complain that the United States has unusually large income gaps, many conservatives have argued that the system is fair because mobility is especially high, too: everyone can climb the ladder. Now the evidence suggests that America is not only less equal, but also less mobile.
“Family background plays more of a role in the U.S. than in most comparable countries,” Professor Corak said in an interview.
Perhaps another brake on American mobility is the sheer magnitude of the gaps between rich and the rest — the theme of the Occupy Wall Street protests, which emphasize the power of the privileged to protect their interests. Countries with less equality generally have less mobility."

Read more:    Harder For Americans to Rise From Lower Rungs     NY Times