Class in America

I’ve long been a believer in the powerful influence of social and economic class on people’s lives, even in a country like the US where class is not generally a polite topic of conversation. (In my experience, people are more comfortable talking about sex than about class differences, even as the gap between the richest and everyone else has widened.)

But even I was surprised at how much a family’s income can affect the lives of their children– through college (or no college) and beyond. As Ryan Avent writes at

One of the most remarkable findings from the Pew Charitable Trusts’ Economic Mobility Project is that a child from a family in the top income quintile who does not get a college degree is more likely to wind up in the top income quintile himself than a child from a family in the bottom income quintile who does get a college degree (see here — PDF).

Bootstraps these days just aren’t as sturdy as they used to be.

Or perhaps they never have been.

(Hat tip: Andrew Sullivan, an economic Reaganite and Thatcherite)