Zakaria: The downward path of upward mobility
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November 10th, 2011
08:38 AM ET

Zakaria: The downward path of upward mobility

In my column in The Washington Post today, I describe how social mobility is declining in the United States, and I lay out some simple ways to restore America's promise for everyone:

Over the past decade, growing evidence shows pretty conclusively that social mobility has stalled in this country. Last week, Time magazine’s cover asked, “Can You Still Move Up in America?” The answer, citing a series of academic studies was, no; not as much as you could in the past and — most devastatingly — not as much as you can in Europe.

The most comprehensive comparative study, done last year by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, found that “upward mobility from the bottom” was significantly lower in the United States than in most major European countries, including Germany, Sweden, the Netherlands and Denmark. Another study, by the Institute for the Study of Labor in Germany in 2006, uses other metrics and concludes that “the U.S. appears to be exceptional in having less rather than more upward mobility.”

So what should be done?

The ingredients are obvious: decent health care and nutrition for children, good public education, high-quality infrastructure — including broadband Internet — to connect all regions and all people to market opportunities, and a flexible and competitive free economy.

Read my full column here. And let me know your thoughts below.

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Topics: Economy • From Fareed • United States

soundoff (3 Responses)
  1. j. von hettlingen

    True, in the U. S. if one's born into poverty, one is "likely to have malnutrition, childhood sicknesses and a bad education", as the U.S. welfare state spends very little on the poor. Furthermore he or she would have more difficulty in climbing the social ladder. Not so much in the former Sovjetunion or in China before the economic reform. All these party functionaries were members of the proletariat, hence a head-of-state comes from the working class. In the U.S. the president is more likely to come from the middle class.
    True we have more social equality in Europe with a good health program and better public education systems than the U. S. does. The "beyond-borders-policy" of the European Union contributes also to this upward mobility. The young, mobile and educated generation, more apt to face the challenges posed by globalisation and technology, stream from all over Europe into London, Paris and Frankfurt, etc. where individual merits count more than his/her social background.

    November 10, 2011 at 10:56 am |
    • j. von hettlingen

      please read – BORDERLESS POLICY of the European Union...

      November 10, 2011 at 3:27 pm |
  2. TinMan

    Not mentioned is the STRONG correlation between upward mobility and big-D Democratic voting. Blue states are much more likely to show strong upward mobility opportunities than red ones, especially when weighted by population.

    August 4, 2013 at 8:41 pm |

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