Modeling Equal Opportunity

The Horatio Alger ideal of upward mobility has a strong grip on the American imagination (Reeves 2014). But recent years have seen growing concern about the distance between the rhetoric of opportunity and the reality of inter-generational mobility trends and patterns.

The related issues of equal opportunity, intergenerational mobility, and inequality have all risen up the agenda, for both scholars and policymakers. A growing literature suggests that the United States has fairly low rates of relative income mobility, by comparison to other countries, but also wide variation within the country. President Barack Obama has described the lack of upward mobility, along with income inequality, as “the defining challenge of our time.” Speaker Paul Ryan believes that “the engines of upward mobility have stalled.”

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