The ‘birth lottery’ and economic mobility

The priest saving LA's gang members

The U.S. has long been heralded as a land of opportunity — a place where anyone can succeed regardless of the economic class they were born into.

But a new report released on Monday by Stanford University’s Center on Poverty and Inequality calls that into question.

The report assessed poverty levels, income and wealth inequality, economic mobility and unemployment levels among 10 wealthy countries with social welfare programs.

Among its key findings: the class you’re born into matters much more in the U.S. than many of the other countries.

As the report states: “[T]he birth lottery matters more in the U.S. than in most well-off countries.”

But this wasn’t the only finding that suggests the U.S. isn’t quite living up to its reputation as a country where everyone has an equal chance to get ahead through sheer will and hard work.

Related: Rich are paying more in taxes but not as much as they used to

The report also suggested the U.S. might not be the “jobs machine” it thinks it is, when compared to other countries.

It ranked near the bottom of the pack based on the levels of unemployment among men and women of prime working age. The study determined this by taking the ratio of employed men and women between the ages of 25 and 54 compared to the total population of each country.

The overall rankings of the countries were as follows:
1. Finland
2. Norway
3. Australia
4. Canada
5. Germany
6. France
7. United Kingdom
8. Italy
9. Spain
10. United States

The low ranking the U.S. received was due to its extreme levels of wealth and income inequality and the ineffectiveness of its “safety net” — social programs aimed at reducing poverty.

Related: Chicago is America’s most segregated city

The report concluded that the American safety net was ineffective because it provides only half the financial help people need. Additionally, the levels of assistance in the U.S. are generally lower than in other countries.

comments powered by Disqus