Myths about opportunity

Americans have always believed that their country is unique in providing the opportunity to get ahead. Just combine hard work with a bit of talent and you'll climb the ladder—or so we've told ourselves for generations. But rising unemployment and financial turmoil are puncturing that self-image.
Isabel V. Sawhill and Ron Haskins of the Brookings Institution and authors of Creating an Opportunity Society have come up with five myths about "our land of opportunity."

For starters, contrary to the belief that "Americans enjoy more economic opportunity than people in other countries," children born into a lower-income family in the Nordic countries and in the United Kingdom have a greater chance of forming a higher-income family as adults. Sawhill and Haskins counter the belief that poverty and inequality in the U.S. are driven by immigrant workers and offshoring of jobs with statistics on "a dramatic change in American family life"--the rise of children in single-parent families whose poverty rates are five time as high as two-parent households. The authors also discuss myths concerning generational upward mobility, public assistance, and cutting waste and abuse in the federal budget.

Five Myths About Our Land of Opportunity, Nov. 1, 2009

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