Tags: capitalism, class, economic sociology, education, inequality, intergenerational mobility, intragenerational mobility, occupy wall street, ows, social mobility, subtitles/CC, 00 to 05 mins
Summary: In this short news clip, journalist Fareed Zakaria discusses what he believes to be Occupy Wall Street's core criticism. Noting that the United States has long had greater levels of inequality than many other nations, he argues that inequality can't be the sole catalyst for the protests. Instead, he thinks the movement was born from the sinking realization that it is increasingly difficult to move up the social mobility ladder and that Americans generally put up with inequality because they believe they can change their own class status. Zakaria points to a Time magazine article written by Rana Foroohar, which explores empirical evidence about social mobility in the United States. In terms of intragenerational mobility, Foroohar notes that if you were born in 1970 in the bottom 20% of our socioeconomic spectrum, you have a 17% chance of making it into the upper 40% of the spectrum. Turning to intergenerational mobility, nearly half of men whose fathers were in the bottom 20% of the socioeconomic spectrum, remained in the bottom 20%. In comparison to Denmark and Sweden, only a quarter of men remained in the bottom 20% of the spectrum, leading to the uncomfortable conclusion that the American dream is really only alive and well in Europe. The antidote to this crisis, as Zakaria argues, is improved education, and he tackles the argument in greater detail in a special he hosts called Fixing Education. The clip works nicely as an introduction to the topic of social mobility, but also as a vivid example of how empirical observation can powerfully expose the myths, which buttress American exceptionalism and ultimately perpetuate American inequality. It also dovetails nicely with Nobel prize winning economist, Joseph Stiglitz's new book, The Price of Inequality: How Today's Society Endangers Our Future, where he argues that the Horatio Alger rags-to riches story is no longer a reality for Americans.
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