Editorial: Down the Up Escalator

Publication: The Boston Globe

09/01/2008 - The fading fruit for American workers is now a familiar Labor Day lament. The US Census Bureau's annual income report says that poverty rates did not budge in 2007 - and this was before the full impact of the foreclosure crisis. While there were slight increases in some areas, real median household income decreased in the Northeast and stagnated in the West. Child poverty continues to creep upward, from 17.4 percent in 2006 to 18 percent last year.

These numbers suggest a nation that needs to face facts. Politicians often say opportunity is greater in America than anywhere else. At the Democratic convention last week, Governor Patrick recalled his own story of uplift. "And though that story is still not told as often as we'd like," he said, "it's told more often in this country than any other place on earth." Yet the United States is now tied with the United Kingdom as the most stratified developed nation.

Few barometers should motivate the next president more than the ongoing Pew Economic Mobility Project. In an intergenerational comparison to see whether individuals' incomes are tied more to their own hard work or their parents' status, Pew found that Germans have 1.5 times more economic mobility than Americans or the British. Canadians have nearly 2.5 times more and Danes 3 times more.

Read the full editorial Down the Up Escalator at The Boston Globe's Web site

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