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Monday, 22 August 2011

Why social mobility is a myth

Social mobility is a myth, those who are born in the bottom 20% have a 97% chance of remaining right there in the bottom 20%..

We hear all the time from various parties and governments that the harder you work you can get yourself up the ladder out of the situation you are in. This is not the case at all as the statistic aabove suggests you can work dam hard all your life and still remain working class. It is a common myth that you can work hard and reach the fruits of your labour.

It is a difficult thing to explain to people but it is a fact that we live in a class based society where the working class are oppressed by the ruling class, the capitalists. The working class must sell their labour to get by.

Several recent studies have punctured the conception, assiduously fostered by the media and political defenders of the profit system, that capitalism makes possible the rapid acquisition of wealth for anyone motivated to work for it.

The truth is very different. A study by economist Tom Hertz of American University, “Understanding Mobility in America”, finds that a child born into a poor family, defined as the bottom 20 percent of the income distribution, has an infinitesimal one-in-a-hundred chance of making it into the top five percent income level.

Hertz’s report, issued by the liberal think tank the Center for American Progress (CAP), studied both “intergenerational mobility” and “short-term mobility.” Intergenerational mobility, comparing an individual’s economic status with that of his or her parents, is taken as a measure of equality of opportunity, since economic success independent of the status of one’s family would seem to indicate that merit and work are the principal sources of material rewards.

As far as intergenerational mobility is concerned, it is not only the children of the poor in the US who have little chance of becoming wealthy. Children born in the middle quintile (the 40-60th percentile of incomes in the country, $42,000 to $54,300) also have only a 1.8 percent chance of reaching the top five percent, a likelihood not much higher than in poor families. These findings were based on a study of over 4,000 children whose parents’ income was determined in 1968 and whose own income was then reviewed as adults in 1995, 1996, 1997 and 1999.

Breaking the data down by race showed that, within the framework of increasing pressure on the working class as a whole, black families continue to face higher burdens. While 47 percent of poor families remain poor in subsequent generations, this figure is 32 percent for whites and 63 percent for blacks. Only 3 percent of African-Americans jump from the bottom quarter of the income distribution to the top 25 percent, while for whites this number, still small, is 14 percent.

The second feature of the study focuses on short-term mobility, which is a measure of annual income volatility. Large changes in annual income correlate with economic instability and insecurity.

On the subject of income volatility, the report’s findings also contradict the claim of equal opportunity and rewards for hard work. Those in the middle income levels—the majority of whom consist of both industrial and service sector workers who are commonly lumped together and labeled “middle class” based on their income level—experienced increased “insecurity of income” between 1997 and 2004, compared to 1990. Downward short-term mobility—an annual income decline of $20,000 or more—rose from 13.0 percent of the population in 1990 to 14.8 percent in 1997-98 and 16.6 percent in 2003-04.

This downward mobility was concentrated among those earning between $34,500 and $89,300 a year, while those in the top 10 percent of income earners ($122,880 or more) saw less negative shocks during this same period. Moreover, the middle income household was no more upwardly mobile in 2003-04 than it was in 1990-91, although the early nineties was a period of recession and the more recent years were ones of officially strong economic growth.
Untill the banking crash in 2008.


Hertz’s findings parallel those contained in a number of similar recent studies. A report prepared by Ian Dew-Becker and Robert Gordon for the National Bureau of Economic Research in December 2005 shows that those in the top 10 percent income bracket received 49 percent of the growth in wages and salaries in the period between 1997 and 2001, while the bottom 50 percent received less than 13 percent.




SO there is clearly mass inequality in society and around the world. In every capitalist society and system there is always teh myth be it the "american dream" or hard work gets you far. Of course working hard can get you so far but to the top very rarely. We as socialists must be at the front pointing these class inequalities out and preparing alternatives to all of these situations.

Of course our alternative is radical and would result in a class less society where there is no upper or lower class a equal fair society where you would be paid a fair wage for a fair days work.

So when you hear a polititian peddling the line that social mobility has increased or decreased its a myth. It simply does not exist and on the odd few ocasions people do move class's and i stress very rarely there are often exceptional circumstances to explain this. So lets not buy the political class's myths and rubbish and start fighting the class war to end the class system for good and bring equality and prosperity to all not just the few.

1 comment:

  1. Very good piece Mark, well written and argued.

    ReplyDelete