Reading & Reacting: The Wealthy Kids Are All Right

By Chuck Collins @ The American Prospect

This is an interesting feature article from The American Prospect that examines some of the inequities that currently exist in our society. Many of these issues are the types of things that edrefromy types either pretend not to exist or look for ways to explain them away as the fault of individuals.

However, multiple indicators from varied sources continue to expose and verify that we no live in a system that is tipped in the haves advantage, and so steeply that the have-nots struggle to even get a foothold of stability and are likely to slide even farther behind the advantaged.

In fact, writer Chuck Collins makes the case that the sorting begins before birth. He uses a pretty compelling metaphor to illustrate the widening gap that occurs.

Imagine a ten-mile race in which contestants have different starting lines based on parental education, income, and wealth. The economically privileged athletes start several hundred yards ahead of the disadvantaged runners. Each contestant begins with ten one-pound leg weights. The race begins, and the advantaged competitors pull ahead quickly. At each half-mile mark, according to the rules, the first twenty runners shed two pounds of weights while those in the last half of the field take on two additional pounds. After several miles, lead racers have no weights, while the slower runners carry twenty additional pounds. By midrace, an alarming gap has opened up in the field, and by the finish line, the last half of the field finishes more than two miles behind the winners.

Of course we still cling to the Horatio Alger myth, but the truth is that the frontrunners have such an advantage over time that their are increasingly fewer rags-to-riches individuals beating the odds. Sociological research continues to routinely bear this kind of data. Education once thought of as a great leveler, now does more to widen the gap.

Collins does offer some basic means to combat this inequity, beginning with the simple acknowledgment that a “declining mobility and opportunity problem” exists. From there, it takes a broader vision and public investment in providing opportunities, especially regarding health and education, for the underprivileged, even potentially restoring a more progressive tax structure.

Without intervening and addressing these growing inequalities, the nation is likely to evolve into a far more caste-based system than already exists.


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