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“Despite the fact that most Americans believe our country is still The Land of Opportunity, the greatest meritocracy in the world, the United States is actually a terrible place for fortune-seekers. Chris Hayes, author of the new book Twilight of the Elites: America After Meritocracy, notes that when citizens of different countries are polled about their perception of how easy it is to start off poor and work their way up to wealth, "the U.S. is near or at the top in terms of people who say 'yes.' And yet it is also near the bottom in terms of actual social mobility." In other words, as Hayes argues in his book, America isn't truly a meritocracy. Sure, the Civil Rights movement, feminism, and equal opportunity laws have helped to remove many of the barriers to success -- but people at the top tend to stay at the top, from clique to clique, and generation after generation. "Those who climb up the ladder will always find a way to pull it up after them, or to selectively lower it down to allow their friends, allies, and kin to scramble up," Hayes writes. The powerful are liable to game systems (like school admissions processes) designed to reward merit; they'll also go to great lengths to maintain their bank accounts and their positions (consider, for instance, just about everyone involved in creating the subprime mortgage crisis). And despite the fact that we are all supposedly born with the same legal rights, the elite are rarely punished for their misdeeds, particularly compared to those lower down on the socioeconomic chain. "The idea that we are a meritocracy is a vast oversimplification, a self-serving and self-justifying one," says Hayes. "If you believe that the model is that those who are smartest and hardest working end up with the most power or the most lucrative jobs, then ... one conclusion to draw from that [is] that the people currently occupying those positions must be meritorious, which I think is an insidious myth.”—Trickle-Down Distress: How America’s Broken Meritocracy Drives Our National Anxiety Epidemic
Tim Wise on Social Mobility in the U.S.
“According to the available research, if your father’s wages rank in the top fifth of all income earners in the country, you’ll have nearly a 60 percent chance of surpassing your dad’s status over time. On the other hand, if your father’s earnings fall in the bottom fifth, the odds that you’ll do better than him one day plummet to less than 5 percent. And not only is mobility itself limited, it appears to be diminishing relative to previous generations. As a recent study for the Boston Federal Reserve Bank discovered, among the nation’s poorest families, the percentage that were able to climb simply to the next quintile (still far from well-off), fell from over half in the 1968-78 period, to only 46 percent in the period from 1993-2003. Additionally, the study found that poor families are 10 times more likely to remain poor than to move into the highest income quintile, while those who started out rich are 5 times more likely to remain there, as to fall into either of the lower two quintiles of earners.”
“if you ask why America is more class-bound in practice than the rest of the Western world, a large part of the reason is that our government falls down on the job of creating equal opportunity. The failure starts early: in America, the holes in the social safety net mean that both low-income mothers and their children are all too likely to suffer from poor nutrition and receive inadequate health care. It continues once children reach school age, where they encounter a system in which the affluent send their kids to good, well-financed public schools or, if they choose, to private schools, while less-advantaged children get a far worse education. Once they reach college age, those who come from disadvantaged backgrounds are far less likely to go to college — and vastly less likely to go to a top-tier school — than those luckier in their parentage. At the most selective, “Tier 1” schools, 74 percent of the entering class comes from the quarter of households that have the highest “socioeconomic status”; only 3 percent comes from the bottom quarter. And if children from our society’s lower rungs do manage to make it into a good college, the lack of financial support makes them far more likely to drop out than the children of the affluent, even if they have as much or more native ability. One long-term study by the Department of Education found that students with high test scores but low-income parents were less likely to complete college than students with low scores but affluent parents — loosely speaking, that smart poor kids are less likely than dumb rich kids to get a degree.”—
One long-term study by the Department of Education found that students with high test scores but low-income parents were less likely to complete college than students with low scores but affluent parents — loosely speaking, that smart poor kids are less likely than dumb rich kids to get a degree.
“Nevertheless, studies published during the 1960s and 1970s reported that skin tone within the Black community continued to be an issue and continues to have an impact on stratification outcomes. Even studies published during the last decade continued to suggest that skin tone does matter among African Americans. For example, Keith and Herring (1991) explored the effects of skin color on stratification outcomes such as education, occupation and income. The study include controls for factors such as parental socioeconomic status, sex, age, urbanization, marital status and region of residence. The results suggested that skin tone had significant effects on education, occupation and income; in fact, skin tone was a better predictor of stratification outcomes than such factors as parental socioeconomic status.”—
Just leaving this here for the next fellow light-skinned person who says “but why are you bringing this up? it’s so divisiveeee!”
Independent fee paying schools educate just 7% of all pupils yet according to a government report published by Labour cabinet minister Alan Milburn they account for 59% of cabinet ministers, 35% of MPs, 45% of senior civil servants, 15 of the 17 supreme court judges and heads of division, 43% of barristers and 54% of leading journalists.
Source: New Statesman
“Researchers with access to closely guarded college admissions data have found that, on the whole, about 15 percent of freshmen enrolled at America's highly selective colleges are white teens who failed to meet their institutions' minimum admissions standards. Five years ago, two researchers working for the Educational Testing Service, Anthony Carnevale and Stephen Rose, took the academic profiles of students admitted into 146 colleges in the top two tiers of Barron's college guide and matched them up against the institutions' advertised requirements in terms of high school grade point average, SAT or ACT scores, letters of recommendation, and records of involvement in extracurricular activities. White students who failed to make the grade on all counts were nearly twice as prevalent on such campuses as black and Hispanic students who received an admissions break based on their ethnicity or race. Who are these mediocre white students getting into institutions such as Harvard, Wellesley, Notre Dame, Duke, and the University of Virginia? A sizable number are recruited athletes who, research has shown, will perform worse on average than other students with similar academic profiles, mainly as a result of the demands their coaches will place on them. A larger share, however, are students who gained admission through their ties to people the institution wanted to keep happy, with alumni, donors, faculty members, administrators, and politicians topping the list.”—Peter Schmidt, from At the elite colleges - dim white kids [Boston Globe]
What you had, before, was a weird kind of socialism — exclusive rights for a mass aristocracy. Better neighborhoods, better schools, better water fountains, better rest-rooms, better pools, better everything.
And now you don’t. And look — There are the Muslims in Congress. And there are the Latinos in the Unions. And there are gays shooting guns in Iraq. And there are women dying in Iraq. And there are black ladies marrying white men. And there are black men marrying white ladies. And their children are Muslims. And their children are in the White House.
And for the first time in American history, it appears that you will have to fight to not end up on the bottom.