Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Rags to...uh, well, more rags

Reading: A fascinating series in the New York Times about class in America. The overview talks about the class structure and mobility in "classless" America. There's even an interactive graphic to see where you fall on the ladder! It says that I am about 69% of the way up this ladder. Only my wealth keeps me from being among the really elite. (Dammit! Once again, I am held back by not being rich.)
Apparently, class mobility has been falling for decades. If you're born to poor parents, you are now more likely to stay poor than someone from the '50s. Likewise if you're rich. Despite this, most Americans still feel that it is easy to move up the ladder (or down, which no one seems to take into account). And a healthy percentage of Americans really believe that they will succeed and get their part of the American dream, which explains why so many people oppose the inheritance tax, even though they believe that the playing field isn't even.

While I am smugly delighted in finding proof that the rich are indeed getting richer and the poor getting poorer, with a wider and wider gap between the haves and have nots, I am also enough of an American to resist the idea that even if you work hard you still may not be successful. As well, my own personal experience has very much been a pull yourself up by your bootstrap kind of thing, so it's a hard concept for me to wrap my head around. To some extent, it's because it’s always hard to understand why everyone else doesn't make the same choices you do. (Or is that just me?) But the second article in the series, on class and health, gives a good picture of how choices are limited by money, position, power, etc. I am waiting eagerly for the third article, on marriage.


Anonymous said...

Apparently I am in the 55th percentile. When I've finished school and gotten a library job I'll be up at 64th percentile. Interesting. How can you still bear to speak to me? I can just see it, some day you'll say you just can't be seen with me anymore. *sigh*

Lien said...

Ah, but see, if I put in the data (or what I think is the data) for my parents and our household while I was growing up, it's in the 39th percentile (and that's only 'cause my father had some college), so I'd have to stop speaking to my whole family before I work my way up to you.