Are rags-to-riches stories really the birth-right of every American? Maybe not. New social mobility statistics certainly aren’t supporting the theory of the ‘American Dream’ – the long claimed ability to transcend one’s circumstances and achieve greater success. America is, in fact, less socially mobile than most developed countries.
It is of concern to every country to try to understand the characteristics that we need to encourage in our societies to help the poor to rise and our children to do well. Social scientists are trying to discover just this to understand why America is not the ‘land of opportunity’ it should be. Interestingly, an on-going Harvard study has found that
…some of the strongest predictors of upward mobility are correlates of social capital and family structure. For instance, high upward mobility areas tended to have higher fractions of religious individuals and fewer children raised by single parents. Each of these correlations remained strong even after controlling for measures of tax expenditures.
In 2012, according to data compiled by Kids Count, 35 percent of children in America lived in in one parent households. Most often those families are run by a women – probably a very stressed one with little time for herself.
It seems obvious that strong families – and therefore secure and happy children – are at the very foundation of society, and therefore at the crux of society’s ills when things go wrong. I never understand why you don’t hear more about things society can do to encourage a committed mother and father for more children. The Harvard research team is blunt in stating that “The strongest predictors of upward mobility are measures of family structure, such as the fraction of single parents in the area”. Other researchers, such as Lane Kenworthy, a sociology and political science professor at the University of Arizona, also agree that having just one parent makes things much harder.
Read the rest here