Tag Archives: inequality

Is Economic Mobility Destined to be a Zero Sum Game?

Harvard Gate Photo by Flickr User Patricia Drury

Harvard Gate Photo by Flickr User Patricia Drury


In the New York Times, Richard V. Reeves is smacking sacred cows, positing that there is no way for everyone to win in our society. Writing on “The Glass-Floor Problem,” Reeves looks at mobility and “sticky floors,” noting:

It is a stubborn mathematical fact that the top fifth of the income distribution can accommodate only 20 percent of the population. If we want more poor kids climbing the ladder of relative mobility, we need more rich kids sliding down the chutes.

Even the most liberal parents are unlikely to be comfortable with the idea that their own children should fall down the scale in the name of making room for a smarter kid from a poorer home. They invest large amounts of economic, social and cultural capital to keep their own children high up the social scale. As they should: there is nothing wrong with parents doing the best by their children.

The problem comes if institutional frameworks in, say, the higher education system or the labor market are distorted in favor of the powerful — a process the sociologist Charles Tilly labeled “opportunity hoarding.” The less talented children of the affluent are able to defy social gravity and remain at the top of the ladder, reducing the number of places open to those from less fortunate backgrounds.

Many New York Times commenters rejected this framework entirely – the idea that someone else has to lose for another to win was too unsettling to consider. And yet, when we compete in an economy of “elites” and there are limited spots available for the most desired schools, jobs, and neighborhoods, that is exactly what has to happen. However, what interested me more than Reeves’s initial argument was a large piece of his solution: access to more elite colleges.

College matters a lot for social mobility. For someone from a poor background, getting a four-year degree virtually guarantees upward mobility. Elite colleges act as gateways to the best career paths. Getting more poor kids into colleges, and getting the brightest into the best colleges, ought to be a national mission.

In essence, Reeves wants to solve a problem by reinforcing the foundation of the problem. Continue reading

America Healing: Promising Approaches for Building Equitable Neighborhoods

This is the liveblog for Promising Approaches for Building Equitable Neighborhoods.

Moderator: Sandra Moore, President, Urban Strategies, Inc.

Panelists:
Janis Bowdler, Director of Weath-Building Policy Project, National Council of La Raza
Susan Eaton, Research Director, Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice, Harvard Law School
Brian Smedley, Vice President and Director, Health Policy Institute, Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies

Is There Any Such Thing As A “Black Issue”?!?

by Guest Contributor Average Bro, originally published at Average Bro

During the campaign season, lots of folks were critical of candidate Obama for not speaking out more vocally about issues that pertain to the African American community. Many saw his race-neutral style as one that largely skirted his ethnicity, and focused perhaps too much on catering to “mainstream America”. In the end, all this panned out. Obama pulled 95% of the black vote, which sounds ultra-impressive, but is more or less in line with what most Democrats running for President have received.

Anyways, Barry is in office now, and going about the bid’ness of saving the world, yet many are still holding his feet to the flame on these “black issues” and exactly what he’s going to do about them.

President Barack Obama should specifically address disparities in black unemployment, foreclosures, education and health care, the National Urban League says in its annual “State of Black America” report.

Despite the progress represented by the election of the first black U.S. president, blacks are twice as likely to be unemployed, three times as likely to live in poverty and more than six times as likely to be incarcerated, says the report, which was being released Wednesday by the civil rights organization.

Obama has said that the way for government to help minorities is by improving things like education, employment and health care for all Americans.

But “we have to be more specific,” said Marc Morial, president and CEO of the 99-year-old Urban League.

“The issue is not only (blacks) doing better, but in closing these persistent gaps in statistics in this country,” Morial told The Associated Press. “Our index shows that the gap in African-American status is about 71 percent that of white Americans. We will not rest until that number is at 100, and there is no gap.”

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