Wednesday, September 5, 2012

America as 'Land of Opportunity' perpetuated by myth

If you grew up believing that your success depends on hard work and determination, you are not alone. It is, after all, the philosophy that leads to America’s reputation as the “land of opportunity’. Not so, reports Counsel and Heal on Sept. 5

According to a study undertaken by a group Of University of Michigan researchers, the existing inequality gap between socioeconomic statuses in the United States makes upward social mobility “very improbable”.

Fabian Pfeffer, a sociologist at the University of Minnesota Institute for Social Research says that Americans underestimate the extent to which their economic backgrounds influence their destiny.

Pfeffer gathered data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, PSID, which followed 18,000 Americans in 5000 families since 1968. The data included employment, income, wealth, expenditures, health, marriage, childbearing, child development, philanthropy and education. Information was continuously collected on the same individuals and their offspring.

Pfeffer then compared that data to similar data from Sweden and Germany. He found no significant differences in the influence of socio-economic status on upward social mobility between the countries.
"Wealth not only fulfills a purchasing function, allowing families to buy homes in good neighborhoods and send their children to costly schools and colleges, for example, but it also has an insurance function, offering a sort of private safety net that gives children a very different set of choices as they enter the adult world," Pfeffer says.
According to a 2011 report from The Big Picture,
“. . . the share of income earned by the top 1 percent of [American] households soared 278 percent between 1979 and 2007, while income growth for the bottom 20 percent of households was limited to just 18 percent during the same period.”
Hard work and determination have helped countless Americans overcome difficulties, but for now, at least, the socio-economic status of your parents may be a more powerful determining factor in your upward social mobility.

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