Social Mobility - A Promise That Could Still Be Kept
As a rhetorical ideal, greater opportunity is hard to beat. Just about all candidates for high elected office declare their commitments to promoting opportunity – who, after all, could be against it? But opportunity is, to borrow a term from the philosopher and political theorist Isaiah Berlin, a "protean" word, with different meanings for different people at different times.
In Defense of Immigrants: Here\'s Why America Needs Them Now More Than Ever
At the very heart of the American idea is the notion that, unlike in other places, we can start from nothing and through hard work have everything. That nothing we can imagine is beyond our reach. That we will pull up stakes, go anywhere, do anything to make our dreams come true. But what if that's just a myth? What if the truth is something very different? What if we are…stuck?
Saving Horatio Alger Equality, Opportunity, and the American Dream
On a warm spring evening in Washington, D.C., a fleet of limousines and town cars delivered hundreds of guests, bedecked in black tie and long gowns, to a gala celebration of the American Dream: the annual awards night for the Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans.
Writing About a Life of Ideas
When an intellectual dies, there are no heaps of flowers or public mournings. The odd wistful editorial will be written in upmarket newspapers; colloquia organized in ivy-clad colleges. Few Americans will know, for instance, that Ronald Dworkin, a formidable figure in American liberal philosophy, died last year.
How to Save Marriage in America
What’s happening to American matrimony? In 1960, more than 70 percent of all adults were married, including nearly six in ten twentysomethings. Half a century later, just 20 percent of 18-29-year olds were hitched in 2010. Marriage was the norm for young America. Now it's the exception.
The New Politics of Character
In August 2011, there was panic on the streets of London. Riots broke out in Tottenham, fueled in part by community anger about a police shooting. Other neighborhoods and then other English cities followed suit. The transfixing images of urban hordes looting storefronts and setting cars and buses ablaze played over and over again on television screens worldwide. When the police were finally able to tame the riots, the property damage was in the hundreds of millions of pounds, 3,000 Britons were in handcuffs, and five men were dead.
The Parenting Gap
The deep divides in American education, from pre-kindergarten to post-graduate, threaten to create a class-based society. Advantage and disadvantage are inherited to a degree that undermines our claims to be open and fair. There is, quite rightly, a cacophonous debate on how to reform schools, open up colleges, and widen access to pre-K learning. But too little attention is paid to another divide affecting social mobility—the parenting gap.
The century gap: Low economic mobility for black men, 150 years after the Civil War
The legacy of American racism is dominating the headlines again. One of the arguments used against the removal or relocation of Confederate symbols is that “it is simply part of our history”. This is not the case. The results of the enslavement, disenfranchisement and exclusion of black Americans remain visible and vivid in 21st century America.
Trump gets something right: Apprenticeships and social mobility
n policy wonk circles, there is a something of a knee-jerk reaction to a Trump proposal. The President proposed it, ergo it is a bad idea. As a general principle this heuristic has some value: there are almost laughably bad policies flowing out of the White House. But be careful: there are some good ones, too. Take President Trump’s recent executive order to expand “industry-recognized” apprenticeships in the United States.
Ladders, labs, or laggards? Which public universities contribute most
Why are taxpayers asked to subsidize postsecondary education? After all, college graduates continue to earn much more on average than those who do not gain a postsecondary degree. One answer is that higher education provides public benefits in addition to high private returns on postsecondary investments.
A tax break for ‘Dream Hoarders’: What to do about 529 college savings plans
Parents, students, and policymakers are increasingly worried about the cost of college. Much of this anxiety is overplayed in the media. A college education remains, for most, a sound investment. Debt levels remain at manageable levels, especially for those with the highest amounts, since they also earn the most.
Paid family and medical leave: An issue whose time has come
The U.S. is the only developed nation without a national paid family leave policy. Though a handful of states have created their own policies—including California, New Jersey, Rhode Island, New York, and the District of Columbia—the plans have a lack of public awareness and low take-up rates. And while some private employers offer paid family leave policies, employer-provided paid leave is concentrated among high-income workers; a majority of those below media income received no pay while on leave.
Social skills matter, but how do we measure and grow them in the classroom?
Most researchers and parents agree that effective social and emotional skills are essential to a child’s development and success as an adult. But how much do we know about these skills, how to measure them, and what impact they have?
Knowledge is power when it comes to judging college performance
Is college worth it? That’s a question that haunts not only many of the young adults considering their next educational step, but many policymakers, too. The value of a college education by number of years completed is, on average, high and rising. But those averages disguise a huge amount of variation, by institution type, degree major, and many other factors.
How to lift the U.S. mobility rate from 50% to 68% in three simple steps
Most of us hope, perhaps even assume, that our children will have a better standard of living than we do. So the “Chetty-bomb” finding from December that only 50% of Americans born in the early 1980s are better off than their parents got plenty of attention.
The liberal case for character
As John Stuart Mill understood well, the character of citizens matters, too. If you are a conservative, you will most likely nod your head in agreement. Today, it tends to be those on the conservative side of politics who emphasize character, especially in terms of individual responsibility, civic and community engagement, and self-restraint. But Mill was a liberal; and our argument here is that character matters just as much to liberals as to conservatives—perhaps even more so.
Cohabiting parents differ from married ones in three big ways
Here are two important, largely uncontested facts: Family stability is important for childhood outcomes. All else equal, children raised in stable families are healthier, better educated, and more likely to avoid poverty than those who experience transitions in family structure. Married parents are more likely to stay together than cohabiting ones. In fact, two-thirds of cohabiting parents split up before their child reaches age 12, compared with one-quarter of married parents.
Convenience plus a conscience: Lessons for school integration
The controversial appointment of Betsy DeVos, an advocate for expanding school vouchers, reanimated long-standing arguments over school assignment, funding, and segregation. There is a great deal of political heat here: racial divisions in U.S. schooling echo and amplify the nation’s racist history. Education is a vital ingredient for success in adulthood.
Are Chinese factories really killing marriage in America?
Free trade brings costs as well as benefits. This is an uncomfortable fact, but one that policymakers are having to take more seriously following the 2016 election and the triumph of trade-sceptic Donald Trump. The broad elite consensus in favor of removing trade barriers is under attack around the globe, prompting fears of a new era of protectionism.
The contribution of historically black colleges and universities to upward mobility
lack students have been (slowly) closing the gap on whites in terms of in high school test scores and graduation rates. But the divide at the college level remains wide. In 2007, the gap in postsecondary attainment (at least an associate degree) between blacks and whites was 13.3 percent (41.0 percent vs. 27.7 percent). The gap remained in the double digits, at 13.6 percent (46.9 percent vs. 33.3 percent), in 2015.
On the new Chetty-bomb that only half of Americans are better off than their parents
Another Chetty-bomb just exploded in the mobility debate. Writing with David Grusky, Maximilian Hell, Nathaniel Hendren, Robert Manduca, and Jimmy Narang, Professor Raj Chetty has just produced a stunning research finding: only half of Americans born in 1980 are economically better off than their parents. This compares to 90 percent of those born in 1940.
Race gaps in SAT math scores are as big as ever
Education has long been cast as the “great equalizer” of American society. Post-secondary colleges, and in particular public universities, are especially prized as engines of upward mobility. As recent research by Raj Chetty, John Friedman, Emmanuel Saez, Nicholas Turner, and Danny Yagan shows, some institutions are more effective in this regard than others.
Race gaps in SAT scores highlight inequality and hinder upward mobility
Taking the SAT is an American rite of passage. Along with the increasingly popular ACT, the SAT is critical in identifying student readiness for college and as an important gateway to higher education. Yet despite efforts to equalize academic opportunity, large racial gaps in SAT scores persist.
Social skills matter, but how do we measure and grow them in the classroom?
Most researchers and parents agree that effective social and emotional skills are essential to a child’s development and success as an adult. But how much do we know about these skills, how to measure them, and what impact they have?
Health, housing, and racial justice: An agenda for the Trump administration
The next administration will have a very long list of challenges. Racial justice ought to be at the top of the agenda. The average black American will be just as far behind whites in 2017 as they were in 2000 in terms of income, wealth, unemployment, earnings, most health disparities, and the risk of incarceration. In the last couple of decades, progress towards equity for African Americans has effectively come to a halt.
Careful! Metrics matter a great deal when estimating racial segregation in schools
The racial segregation of American schools has historically been a vivid symptom of racist attitudes, institutions, and laws. Segregation remains a highly salient issue, especially given the wide, stubborn gaps in educational outcomes by race.
Segregation, race, and charter schools: What do we know?
In “Segregation, race, and charter schools: What do we know?” Brookings Senior Fellows Grover J. “Russ” Whitehurst and Richard Reeves, along with Senior Research Assistant Edward Rodrigue, find that poverty—not race—is the real challenge for segregated schools, and that improving school quality is key to closing racial achievement gaps.
Mammon's Kingdom: An Essay on Britain Now review – David Marquand's cry of despair
A funny thing happened on the way to this review: I saw Garrison Keillor perform. The Lake Wobegon author shared the stage with a jazz band, a blues singer, violinists and radio comedians. It was a dizzying, patchy and occasionally obtuse performance, punctuated with moments of brilliance.
The Myth of the Strong Leader by Archie Brown – review
Americans love to honour their former presidents: paintings, statues, libraries. Even airports get relabelled. Since 1963, travellers to New York have been touching down at JFK; Washington DC is served by Reagan national airport. There is now a campaign, led by senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri, to give Harry Truman his due by renaming DC's main train station Truman Union station. But the plan is facing an unexpected opponent, from beyond the grave: Truman himself.
The Great Debate by Yuval Levin – review
Edmund Burke maintains a strong hold on the English conservative imagination, but is scarcely known on the other side of the Atlantic. Thomas Paine, while half-forgotten in his native Britain, is presented to American eighth-graders as a founding philosopher of the 1776 revolution. Yuval Levin treats their ideas in tandem, and shows how their disagreements – most vividly over the French revolution, most intensely over the political authority of history – illuminate divisions in politics to this day, especially those between left and right.
Let’s talk about the GOP proposal to give a fetus a tax benefit
The House GOP’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act has provisions to please and to provoke almost everybody. There are welcome ideas: reducing the mortgage interest deduction, boosting the child tax credit, and taxing the large endowments of large colleges. Not so much: eliminating the estate tax, lowering the student loan interest deduction, and slashing corporate taxes.
Here's Why the Middle Class Must Pay More Taxes, Not Less
To properly fund infrastructure investments, tax credits, training and education, and seriously tackle the federal budget deficit, we will need the top 20 percent of Americans to pay more in taxes.
‘Exclusionary zoning’ is opportunity hoarding by upper middle class
One of the great advantages of the United States has, at least historically, been the nation’s sheer scale. With almost four million square miles of territory, there has almost always been somewhere to go to find land, or at least a living.
Trump gets something right: Apprenticeships and social mobility
In policy wonk circles, there is a something of a knee-jerk reaction to a Trump proposal. The President proposed it, ergo it is a bad idea. As a general principle this heuristic has some value: there are almost laughably bad policies flowing out of the White House. But be careful: there are some good ones, too.
'Wages and wives' are a big reason the rich are getting richer
Over the past four decades, the gap between those at the top of the income ladder and everyone else has widened. The "top" here includes, but is not limited to, the top 1%. A larger group, equivalent to the top fifth of the income ladder, have seen their incomes rise faster than the majority of Americans.
Author of viral New York Times op-ed: Don't kid yourself that you're middle class
What social class are you in? If you are like most Americans, you will probably say "middle class." In a recent Pew survey, almost nine in 10 Americans did, and about half of Americans said they were "middle middle" class. Only 2 percent acknowledge that they're "upper class."
Really, it’s not just the 1 percent
Income inequality has increased in recent decades: nobody disputes that. But there is plenty of argument over the main story. Is it the separation of the very rich in the top 1 percent of the distribution (the “we are the 99 percent” story), or is the fracture that counts lower down, with the top 20 percent pulling away from the rest?
Glass floors and slow growth: a recipe for deepening inequality and hampering social mobility
Generations of British and US children have benefited from the hard work their parents contributed to many decades of strong economic growth. This has helped to ensure that, on average, children in their adult lives are economically better-off than their parents were at the same age. But growth has now been weaker for many years.
A better way to cut government spending: End tax breaks on 529 college savings plans
Public money is tight. Policymakers at federal and state levels are looking for savings. Some, at least, are anxious not to hurt poor and middle-income families. How do they balance the budget without worsening inequality?
Don’t want to be a Dream Hoarder? Here are 5 things you can do right now.
In my new book Dream Hoarders, I argue that the American upper middle class is separating from the bottom 80 percent, and that this separation threatens the ideal of equal opportunity.
Stop Pretending You’re Not Rich
When I was growing up, my mother would sometimes threaten my brother and me with elocution lessons. It is no secret that how you talk matters a lot in a class-saturated society like the United Kingdom. Peterborough, our increasingly diverse hometown, was prosperous enough, but not upscale.
Summer internships are destroying the American Dream
Of the 1,500 unpaid interns hired into Michael Bloomberg’s mayoral office in New York City in 2002, at least one in five had been recommended by someone within the administration. And one successful candidate had an especially easy interview: Emma Bloomberg.
The Dream Hoarders: How America's Top 20 Percent Perpetuates Inequality
In January 2015, Barack Obama suffered an acute political embarrassment. A proposal from the budget he’d sent to Congress was dead on arrival—but it was the president himself who killed it.
Everyone Loses In UK Election
Teresa May last night became the second Conservative Prime Minister in less than year to take an unnecessary gamble, and lose. She was elevated to the premiership in the aftermath of David Cameron’s reckless decision to hold a referendum on EU membership. After the Brexit vote, and after a terrifying few days in which it seemed possible that Boris Johnson could lead Her Majesty’s Government, May seemed like a godsend.
'Exclusionary Zoning' Is Opportunity Hoarding by Upper Middle Class
One of the great advantages of the United States has, at least historically, been the nation’s sheer scale. With almost four million square miles of territory, there has almost always been somewhere to go to find land, or at least a living.
Liberals, Worry About Citizens' Character, Not Just Trump's
Liberals know better than socialists or conservatives that free societies can only function effectively if they are comprised of strong individuals. Paternalism becomes necessary when individuals lack the capacity and agency to run their own lives well.
There’s a better way to celebrate take your kids to work day: Taking someone else’s kid instead
This week, parents are being urged to take their kids to work for the day. But here’s a better idea: Don’t. Strike a blow for equality by taking a kid from a different social background instead.
Illiberal arts colleges: Pay more, get less (free speech)
The case of Murray v. Middlebury has generated plenty of interest, and for good reason. For those who missed it, Charles Murray, a distinguished if often controversial social scientist, was prevented from speaking at Middlebury College by repeated noisy disruptions to both a public and hastily-arranged private webcast.
Paid leave for fathers, too, please
The idea of paid leave is popular, as survey after survey shows. But in the minds of many, including President Trump, paid leave is seen as a women’s issue. This is wrong, wrong-headed, and regressive.
Drs. Carson and Price: Working together, you can narrow stubborn race gaps in health and housing
Dear Doctors Carson and Price, Congratulations on being nominated to serve as Secretary for Housing and Urban Development and Secretary for Health and Human Services, respectively, in the new administration.
Middle America’s malaise helped Trump to victory, but he has no cure
For many whites, and especially for white men, a vote for Donald Trump was a cry of pain. Leave aside that most of Trump’s voters did not attend rallies, and that few live in the bizarre, twitterspheric world of the Alt-right. His successful wooing of white middle America, especially in the Mid-West, and of white less-educated men, helped him to win the Presidency.
Social mobility: A promise that could still be kept
As a rhetorical ideal, greater opportunity is hard to beat. Just about all candidates for high elected office declare their commitments to promoting opportunity – who, after all, could be against it? But opportunity is, to borrow a term from the philosopher and political theorist Isaiah Berlin, a “protean” word, with different meanings for different people at different times.
Young Americans value commitment over marriage: But can you have one without the other?
Here are three things that we know for sure: Children raised in stable homes do much better in life; The commitment of parents to providing stability matters a lot; Married parents are much more likely to stay together than cohabiting couples.
5 ways to make the populist-Republican coalition government work
Nominally, the GOP now has political control of the federal government. But in reality, the U.S. is about to be governed by a coalition between a populist president and Republican leaders in Congress.