11/23/2007 - We're not who we think we are.
The American self-image is suffused with the golden glow of opportunity. We think of the United States as a land of unlimited possibility, not so much a classless society but as a place where class is mutable -- a place where brains, energy and ambition are what counts, not the circumstances of one's birth. But three new studies suggest that Horatio Alger doesn't live here anymore.
The Economic Mobility Project, an ambitious research initiative led by the Pew Charitable Trusts, looked at the economic fortunes of a large group of families over time, comparing the income of parents in the late 1960s with the income of their children in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Here's the finding that jumps out at me:
"The 'rags to riches' story is much more common in Hollywood than on Main Street. Only 6 percent of children born to parents with family income at the very bottom move to the very top."
Read the full article Tattered Dream on the Washington Post Web site.