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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.