America’s exceptionally low social mobility

Paul Krugman gives himself a break from thinking about Trump to think about the Trump Princess.

You see, recently she said something that would have been remarkable coming from any Republican, but was truly awesome coming from the Daughter in Chief.

The subject under discussion was the proposal, part of the Green New Deal, that the government offer a jobs guarantee. Ms. Trump trashed the notion, claiming that Americans “want to work for what they get,” that they want to live in a country “where there is the potential for upward mobility.”

O.K., this was world-class lack of self-awareness: It doesn’t get much better than being lectured on self-reliance by an heiress whose business strategy involves trading on her father’s name.

Right? What real work has Princess Ivanka ever done? Mincing around the landscape looking like a Barbie doll doesn’t count.

But Krugman’s point is that the upward mobility thing is bullshit; we have less of it than the other developed countries, not more. This comes as zero surprise to anyone who has been paying attention to the ever-growing gulf between rich and poor here.

America’s exceptionally low social mobility is distinct from its exceptionally high income inequality, although these are almost surely related. Among advanced countries, there is a strong negative correlation between inequality and mobility, sometimes referred to as the “Great Gatsby curve.” This makes sense. After all, huge disparities in parents’ income tend to translate into large disparities in children’s opportunities.

Witness the Trump and Kushner offspring, talentless dweebs to a person.

Where do people from poor or modest backgrounds have the best chance of getting ahead? The answer is that Scandinavia leads the rankings, although Canada also does well. And here’s the thing: The Nordic countries don’t just have low inequality, they also have much bigger governments, much more extensive social safety nets, than we do. In other words, they have what Republicans denounce as “socialism” (it really isn’t, but never mind).

What does that translate to? Universal health care, better schools, more public housing. What does that help foster? New generations who get decent schooling and a safe place to do homework and get enough sleep. You do the math.

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