Those folk on the other side of the pond love a rags to riches story. But only 6% of children born to parents with a family income at the very bottom move to the very top (see the Economic Mobility Project here). Your chances of pulling off a “poor dad, rich dad” escape are actually quite slim.
And those chances dramatically worsen if you have a dark skin. Two thirds of all Americans earn more today than their parents did at the same age in the 1960s — the American dream — but black kids are far less likely to climb the income ladder than white kids (see Julia Isaacs here). More than half of all black children born to parents in the bottom quintile stay in the bottom — compared to 31 per cent of white children. And this doesn’t just apply to the poorest; blacks born into the middle class in the 1960s are far less likely than whites to earn more than their parents.
America cannot afford to stay as it is. Poverty is destructive, especially of young minds. High stress in poor families impairs brain development — particularly language ability and memory — according to Harvard researchers (go here). The cause? It seems the body releases harmful chemicals that impair cognition in the brain.
We leave the last word to Paul Krugman in the NYT: “Living in or near poverty has always been a form of exile, of being cut off from the larger society. But the distance between the poor and the rest of us is much greater than it was 40 years ago, because most American incomes have risen in real terms while the official poverty line has not. To be poor in America today, even more than in the past, is to be an outcast in your own country. And that, the neuroscientists tell us, is what poisons a child’s brain. ”. Quite so.