A new paper from The Equality of Opportunity Project puts numbers to a phenomenon that many Americans have been experiencing now for years, namely that achieving the “American dream” for most of us is becoming less and less likely with every decade that passes, notes Alana Semuels.
“The numbers are sobering,” says Semuels. “People born in the 1940s had a 92 percent chance of earning more than their parents did…. For people born in the 1980s, by contrast, the chances were just 50-50.”
First, the economic pie is growing at a slower rate than it once did in the 1950s, so there’s less prosperity to go around. In addition, the distribution of wealth since then has become more unequal, with most of the benefits of an expanding GDP accruing to Americans at the top of the income scale while those at the bottom are getting less than they once did.