Upward Mobility

April 29, 2005 • Volume 15, Issue 16
Does income inequality threaten the American dream?
By Alan Greenblatt

Introduction

College-educated Americans like David Hughes, a recent Morehouse graduate, typically earn 50 percent more than their peers with a high school diploma. But tuition increases are making it tougher for poor students to go to college.  (Getty Images/Erik S. Lesser)
College-educated Americans like David Hughes, a recent Morehouse graduate, typically earn 50 percent more than their peers with a high school diploma. But tuition increases are making it tougher for poor students to go to college. (Getty Images/Erik S. Lesser)

Wealth has become more concentrated in the United States, with the top 1 percent of households now commanding a bigger share of the nation's prosperity than at any time since the 1920s. Average middle-class family incomes, meanwhile, have been mostly stagnant for more than 30 years. As the gap between the rich and everyone else grows wider, some sociologists and economists worry that the “Horatio Alger” dream of economic success through hard work and merit is dead and that getting ahead now depends mostly on your family's affluence, education and social connections. Others say living standards are rising for nearly everyone, newcomers still can find their fortunes here and middle-class Americans live better than their parents did. President Bush, meanwhile, is encouraging wealth creation, but critics say his “ownership society” proposals pose greater economic risks and won't help spread the nation's good fortune to all.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Upward Mobility
Jun. 26, 2015  Millennial Generation
Dec. 03, 2010  Income Inequality
Apr. 29, 2005  Upward Mobility
Oct. 29, 1993  The Glass Ceiling
Jul. 23, 1993  Downward Mobility
Mar. 21, 1955  Job Problems in Middle Age
BROWSE RELATED TOPICS:
Wages