Upward Mobility from the WSJ

Upward Mobility:  At the National Journal, Ronald Brownstein looks at a new book by Ron Haskins and Isabel Sawhill on upward mobility. “More than 60 percent of Americans whose parents scaled the top fifth of the income ladder have reached the top two-fifths themselves, Haskins and Sawhill found. By contrast, 65 percent of Americans with parents from the lowest fifth of earners remain stuck in the bottom two-fifths. Though we venerate the American Dream, studies show that children born to low-income parents in the United States are more likely to remain trapped near the bottom than their counterparts in Europe, the authors report. Many factors constrain upward mobility in America, including the decline of the two-parent family and bad personal decisions such as teen parenthood. But another reason the escalator is slowing for many on the bottom is that income is now so dependent on education. Today, four-year college graduates earn about 80 percent more than workers with high school degrees. That’s more than double the gap in the 1960s.”

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16 Responses to “Upward Mobility from the WSJ”


  1. 1 Amanda Herrera October 20, 2009 at 8:17 PM

    After reading this article it reminded me of something my mom always tells me, each generation gets better and better. I give you more than my parents gave me and you will do the same for your children.” This statement is similar to what the article says people “whose parents scaled the top fifth of the income ladder have reached the top two-fifths themselves” However, this does not hold true to the statement made by the article how people of lower status families have trouble rising up. Furthermore, I do agree that a lot of this is due to the a person’s income being heavily based on education. With the high cost of college education this is difficult for people who can’t afford it. Although, there seems to have been an increase in the number of scholarships available.

  2. 2 Nubia Cazares October 21, 2009 at 7:17 PM

    I completely agree with this article. Society is based on class and a persons income and it makes sense that a person who was born to parents who are in the top fifth of the income ladder will continue the same pattern. On the contrast, the rest of the population continues to strive for the American Dream through hardowork. I find it interesting how one of the American ideals is how we are based on meritocracy but yet there can be low income people who will work harder then one of the richest persons in the income ladder and never get close to the American Dream. Our society relies more on education, as the article mentioned, and many low income families are unable to provide a good education for their kids who will in turn continue in the cycle of poverty.

  3. 3 Cole Norton October 21, 2009 at 7:44 PM

    This article shows that if you are surrounded by success, you yourself are bound to exceed. Granted, there are other factors such as having positive influences that want you to do well, but having successful parents definitely helps when trying to become successful yourself. People who stay in the bottom tier of the income ladder are there for a number of reasons, and it will only be harder for them to find jobs in today’s economy. Jobs are scarce, and those who are fortunate enough to get jobs are, for the most part, college educated, and have been blessed to have enough money to afford school. However, ambition and hard work can go a long way, and those at the bottom do not have to remain there as there are online colleges, community colleges, etc. that can help them make a better life for themselves.

  4. 4 Jorge Clavijo October 22, 2009 at 6:45 PM

    I absolutely agree with the author perspective point of view on how income affects society. Many of us did not have the opportunity to be part of a wealthy family; however, I do believe that education is the only way for you to succeed in life. Now days for you to have a job opportunity, you will need to have a undergraduate at least.

  5. 5 Alejandro Plascencia October 22, 2009 at 7:36 PM

    Alot of people that are in the bottom two-fifths if the income ladder may have been born into that, but everyone in America is given ample resources to become successful. The resources are there its up to the person to make something of them. Education is the key to success, and a college education is the best way to climb the income ladder.

  6. 6 Vina Giang October 25, 2009 at 4:24 PM

    when it said that studies showed that people who are born to low income parents in the US are most likely to stay trapped in the bottom, i disagree because that would apply to me and that is telling me that i would not be able to succeed in life. My parents went to from being low income, living on welfare to becoming middle class. I think that they need to do more studies on children and parents living in different social class. i think if children see how they are living is not the American dream than they would be more likely to improve their lives and have bigger dreams thus making them succeed in life.

  7. 7 Alexandria Horton October 27, 2009 at 7:31 AM

    Oh, I believe it. Maybe that is why California is in such a rut. There are far more low income families and low income to no income parents, then anywhere I can think of. Babies having babies and then getting on welfare. It is sickening. American’s don’t shoot for the stars anymore, they slack, and those who do have to pick up everybody else’s slack. We should start having some type of population control and stop allowing children to have children. Schools need more structure and resources and teachers who care. Kid’s should all have to go to pre-school and all families should be evaluated. Land of the free has ended up land of the lazy and over-televisionized. Do I hear a revolution about to erupt in the new future?

  8. 8 Robert Rey, Econ 100 November 2, 2009 at 11:00 AM

    Originally, I believed that wanting to achieve the American Dream required motivation and hard work to achieve it, regardless of economic and cultural background. This article touches on some issues that can make the journey really hard for low income individuals. I think some of them are legitimate reasons why some can’t achieve it; the lack of money and support from close adults to pursue it can be crippling. Bad decisions early in life also continue the cycle, such as teen pregnancy and dropping out of high school or college. The government should give these people more support if they’re willing to pursue it, because the income gap is only going to get wider. People know the importance of getting a good education, but not everyone is lucky enough to have the resources to achieve it alone.

  9. 9 Michelle Benton November 2, 2009 at 2:54 PM

    There is opportunity for everyone to better themselves but some lower income people do not have the resources to take advantage of that opportunity. Knowing where to start and who to ask is very overwhelming for someone that is ignorant on the subject of bettering them selves. I think coupling education on how to get an education is very important in the success of lower income families pulling out of the vicious cycle of low income inheritence. Both of my parents are not college educated but have technical skills that made us a living. When I decided to go to college after high school, they didn’t see much of a point in it and really didn’t know how to give me advice on how to do it. Even though they are smart people, they didn’t realize the significance in the amount of support I needed to figure the system out. I dropped out after one semester because I didn’t feel the significance either. After working for 7 years and gaining experience and figuring out my interests, I started school again and am doing very well. I have gained the means to figure things out myself whereas before I was lost. If we could provide career interest counseling for young adults from low income families that are interested in continueing education after high school, I think it would give them the same support resources as the Higher income young adults have through their parents.

  10. 10 Jacqueline Guerrero December 5, 2009 at 11:40 AM

    I thought this article was very interesting. Especially the statistics about the higher and lower income families and there children. The thing that stuck out to me the most was when the article stated “65 percent of Americans with parents from the lowest fifth of earners remain stuck in the bottom two-fifths.”
    I understand that this statistic is true due to teen pregnancy and high school drop outs. However, there are plenty of resources out there for children of poorer families such as financial aid.

  11. 11 Samantha Fagundes December 6, 2009 at 12:57 AM

    I think that for the most part this article is correct except those starting off with low income families are stuck at the bottom. I don’t know I think that it’s not always going to be impossible to move up from that it just depends.

  12. 12 Margaret Garbo December 7, 2009 at 12:12 AM

    I think that people born into low income families will not be forever stuck their. I think each person can make that decision to be better and act towards becoming better. It is true that there are issues that hinder a person from being more successful in life like lack of money or bad decisions such as pregnancy at a young age. Having a goal and doing anything in your power to reach it is what I believe is key. Be willing to make sacrifices and soon enough you will be able to reach it no matter what the opportunity cost.

  13. 13 Josh Highness December 8, 2009 at 1:29 PM

    The lack of education seems to be the apparent problem for why the next generation becomes stuck in the certain low income rung. I must admit it is hard to a high school graduate coming from a broken family with financial troubles to find his or her way since they need to be able to sustain themselves financially before considering extra schooling. I think an ideal solution to the problem is some communal support with those who are going through the same things and could give wisdom and motivation for those who strive for a better education regardless of past decisions.

  14. 14 Justin Castro December 8, 2009 at 3:22 PM

    Many people that are in the lower part of the income ladder could have been born into it, but every person in America is given enough resources t become successful. The resources are available but it’s up to the individual to make something of it. In my opinion, education is the key to success, and a college education is the best way to get up the income ladder.

  15. 15 Fr,K December 14, 2009 at 5:14 PM

    People act surprised that that is how it is, but it seems like that is exactly how it would be. The persons in that top fifth have better access to what have been deemed better education opportunities, and they do not have to worry about a lot of the things a person in the lower fifth has to worry about. There are opportunities for those lower earners to reach the top, the main one being education. If they applied themselves and worked somewhat hard, they would break out of their percentile group

  16. 16 Hayden Scott December 14, 2009 at 7:27 PM

    This reminds me of numerous papers I’ve had to write in sociology classes involving the role of socioeconomic status throughout early childhood to adulthood in determining eventual monetary and prestige attainment. It’s the same function, those with power, or in other cases it could be speaking to wealth or knowledge, have more opportunity to get more of it than those without. I’m hardly surprised that this sociological observation is given economic credence. If anything though, I’m relatively shocked that there has been such a dramatic gap in wages but it makes sense. The latent effect of this gap is that more people will, and have been, be pushing for these new levels of attainment, causing the worth of the bachelor’s degree to diminish. Just one more reason to go for a Master’s or a Doctorate.


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