Lane Kentworthy, over at Consider the Evidence, has been doing a series of posts here, here, here, and here on economic mobility and income inequality in the U.S. The news is not good. In his latest post in the series, he writes:
The median income of [sample] families increased by about $12,000 between 1964 and 1994. Between 1974 and 2004, in contrast, it increased by only $4,500. The gain from generation to generation declined. And this is despite the fact that a growing share of these families have two earners rather than just one.
Public rhetoric would suggest that this is, in essence, an educational problem: That we’re not adequately preparing kids for high paying jobs so that employers then reluctantly move those jobs elsewhere.
Yet the data that he cites suggests that declining mobility may be attributable not simply to a slowing economy (as is assumed in much educational policy making), but instead to growing income inequality.
As he notes, the “American ethos” is enveloped in a deep belief in the chance to move up — in large measure, through doing well in school.
It seems unfortunately clear, however, that poor and working class kids cannot simply learn their way into the middle class in these troubled economic times .