Opportunity Indicators

The rhetorical attraction of opportunity is irresistible. Every politician in the land sings its praises, laments its absence, or promises its restoration. Opportunity is a leitmotif not only of American political discourse but of American culture: Horatio Alger, the frontier, the land of opportunity, the American Dream … you know the drill.

Take these two quotes—one from President Obama, a Democrat: “Opportunity is who we are … but upward mobility has stalled”—and the other from U.S. Representative Paul Ryan , a Republican and now Speaker of the House: “Upward mobility is the central promise of life in America, but right now, America’s engines of upward mobility aren’t working the way they should.”

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