Richard Reeves. In his new book, Dream Hoarders, Reeves argues that the upper middle class, or the top 20 percent, is “hoarding” the American Dream.
.. Reeves first points to unequal development of human capital.
By unequal development of human capital, Reeves is talking about parenting and education. Upper middle class parents are more likely to be married, and they’re more likely to plan their pregnancies. A study at the Columbia School of Social Work found that parenting behavior, namely maternal warmth and sensitivity, to be the most important factor of the gap between upper middle class children and bottom-income quintile children. In other words, parenting behavior is more important than maternal education, family size, and race.
Furthermore, upper middle class children generally live in neighborhoods with high-performing public schools, or they attend posh private schools. Upper middle class parents can hire college admissions consultants for upwards of $5,000 to guarantee that their children attend a selective college. Not to mention that most upper middle class parents have often gone through the college admissions process themselves and can help their children succeed.
.. In order to give all children the chance to succeed, Reeves suggest that we
- curb exclusionary zoning, especially density requirements that prevent multi-family homes from being built in wealthy areas;
- end legacy admissions at the top colleges in America that inevitably give preference to upper middle class children; and
- open up internships by increasing regulatory oversight and extending student financial aid to cover summertime opportunities.
.. while Absolute mobility is concerned with whether incomes increase or decrease. Over time, everyone can be better off as the economy grows. Why do we need downward mobility from the top? If everyone’s standards of living are rising, why do we need to be concerned with class status?
.. “increasing the number of smart, poor kids making it to the top of the labor market is likely to mean an improvement in quality and therefore productivity.” Upper middle class people are top influencers in society; they are politicians, pundits, broadcast journalists, and financial analysts. These people should be the most talented people in society, not just the ones lucky enough to be born to rich parents because that is best for the economy. To give one of many examples, a working paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research determined that fund managers from low-income backgrounds perform better than those from upper middle class backgrounds.
Struggling Americans Once Sought Greener Pastures — Now They’re Stuck
For small towns, mobility has always been something of a problem: When the brightest youngsters leave and don’t return, “brain drain” can be a drag on the community, even if it is a boon for the other cities they settle in. Now, the lack of mobility has become a drag on the entire U.S. economy.
“We’re locking people out from the most productive cities,” says Peter Ganong, an assistant professor of public policy at the University of Chicago who studies migration. “This is a force that widens the urban-rural divide.”
.. Today, manufacturers employ only a third the number of workers that they did 10 years ago, according to census data. Their payrolls have plummeted by 74% adjusted for inflation, or by $30 million. Unemployment has averaged 7.7% over the past year, compared with 4.7% nationally. In one of many ominous signs, census figures show that more residents are using wood to heat their homes.
.. Nevertheless, the inflow and outflow of people in Ogemaw County is so small that among its 21,000 residents, it only loses a net of one person a year for every 1,000 residents. Even some young people, who yearn to move to thriving nearby cities like Grand Rapids, find they can’t.
.. A lawyer who leaves Alabama, Mississippi or South Carolina for a job in New York, New Jersey or Connecticut would spend just 21% of his income on housing after moving, Prof. Ganong has found. But a janitor making such a move would have his higher salary gobbled up by housing costs equal to 52% of income.
.. She is a college grad but finds that employers are bypassing her in favor of younger graduates, which are cheap and abundant in the state’s second-largest city.
.. For many rural residents across the country with low incomes, government aid programs such as Medicaid, which has benefits that vary by state, can provide a disincentive to leave. One in 10 West Branch residents lives in low-income housing, which was virtually nonexistent a generation ago. Civic leaders here say extended networks of friends and family and a tradition of church groups that will cover heating bills, car repairs and septic services—often with no questions asked—also dissuade the jobless and underemployed from leaving.
.. the rationale boils down to: “I’ve got good social services. I’m stuck in one big rut. If you ask me to go to Indianapolis, I can’t—even if there’s a job there.”
.. Another obstacle to mobility is the growth of state-level job-licensing requirements, which now cover a range of professions from bartenders and florists to turtle farmers and scrap-metal recyclers. A 2015 White House report found that more than one-quarter of U.S. workers now require a license to do their jobs, with the share licensed at the state level rising fivefold since the 1950s.
.. cities’ welcoming attitudes toward immigrants from abroad, same-sex marriage and secularism heighten distrust among small-town residents with different values. That widens the cultural gulf.
.. Economists have tried to measure whether Americans’ eroding trust in one another is damping mobility—such confidence helps ease the transition to a new town—and found signs that this sliding trust may be keeping people from uprooting.
.. states with large declines in overall trust were also places where job-switching had decreased markedly.
.. Bad experiences in cities also turned him off. In one job, he traveled the country cleaning Home Depot locations and recalls feeling uneasy when a black worker at a Kansas City McDonald’s told him to leave because white boys didn’t belong in that part of town, he says. He took his children to Detroit for a motocross event at Ford Field and panhandlers hit him up for money.
.. “One of the big cultural divides when people move from small towns to cities is this feeling that you can’t be involved in your community,” says David J. Peters, associate professor of sociology at Iowa State University. “You feel powerless to change large cities.”
.. she started at Olivet College in south central Michigan in 2016. But she struggled to fit in there, too. She felt uncomfortable when a professor asked students to write about why Donald Trump would make a bad president.
How America Lost Its Mojo
U.S. dynamism is in the dumps: Americans are less likely to switch jobs, move to another state, or create new companies than they were 30 years ago (or 100 years ago). What’s going on?
Between the 1970s and 2010, the rate of Americans moving between states fell by more than half—from 3.5 percent per year to 1.4 percent. “It’s a puzzle and it’s the one I wish politicians and policy makers were more concerned about,” Betsey Stevenson, a former member of Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers, told TheNew York Times this week. Fewer Americans moving toward the best jobs and starting fewer companies could lead a less productive economy. On Thursday, the Financial Times reported that productivity “is set to fall in the U.S. for the first time in more than three decades.”
.. Whereas the middle class used to move toward productivity and jobs, like the River Rouge complex, they’re now barricaded from the most productive places by housing costs. So they’re moving toward cheap housing, instead.
.. Like smoking habits and fitness, entrepreneurship is a contagious behavior. “Exposing individuals to entrepreneurs may encourage them to start their own ventures,”
How to Get Americans Moving Again
Second, we should reform place-based welfare programs to reduce the incentive to stay put. The social safety net should be designed to promote mobility and earned success, not to anchor people within struggling communities or to make full-time work harder to find. Additionally, it would not be particularly expensive to fund experimental programs to provide relocation allowances.
.. Finally, we need leaders who extol the American spirit of courage, adventure, optimism and the willingness to break from the moribund past. Instead of vowing to insulate Americans from economic trends, our leaders should encourage the traditional ruggedness that Alexis de Tocqueville found here in the 19th century.