by Richard V. Reeves
Reeves walks through how the top 20% are pulling away from the rest of the country, and constructing a glass floor to ensure that future generations stay in the top. This is a hard pill to swallow for those of us progressives, and encourages us to take a hard look at how we are hoarding opportunity even while extolling the virtues of equality.
"In a market economy, the people who develop the skills and attributes valued in the market will have better outcomes. That probably sounds kind of obvious. But it has important implications. It means, for example, that we can have a meritocratic market in a deeply unfair society, if "merit" is developed highly unequally and largely as a result of the lottery of birth."
"We need more downward mobility from the top. To say that downward mobility is not popular is an understatement. We would likely be more relaxed if society were more equal, since the fall would not be so great. Likewise, if everyone was getting generally better off, slipping a quintile or two might not seem like the end of the world. But whatever we do, an inconvenient truth will remain. If more kids from lower-income quintiles are to move up, more of those from higher up must fall."
"The central political challenge here is to persuade the winners that, in many cases, their success is not the result of their own brilliance but the lottery of their birth."
"Social skills and social networks count a good deal. In a world where half of all jobs are found through family or friends, it is likely that class background influences class futures. From an early age, children form a particular view of working life through the lens of their parents' occupations."
"Opportunity hoarding does not result from the workings of a large machine but from the cumulative effect of individual choices and preferences. Taken in isolation, they may feel trivial: nudging your daughter into a better college with a legacy preference; helping the son of a professional contact to an internship; a single vote on a municipal council to retain low-density zoning restrictions. But, like many, "micro-preferences," to borrow a term from economist Thomas Schelling, they can have strong effects on overall culture and collective outcomes."