Summary of How Will We Know? The Case for Opportunity Indicators

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How Will We Know? The Case for Opportunity Indicators summary
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While the United States often bills itself as “the land of opportunity,” the metrics for laying claim to that coveted title are often muddled and murky. Even as politicians remain behind battle lines on critical issues, almost all of them agree that upward income mobility has stalled. At one time, Americans could reasonably expect to achieve a better economic status than the one into which they were born. That’s no longer necessarily so. Writer Richard V. Reeves explores the ways government can use available data to measure income progress while aiming at specific opportunity targets. getAbstract recommends this thought-provoking paper to social scientists, economists and government decision makers interested in gauging social and economic mobility.

About the Author

Richard V. Reeves is a writer and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.



To understand why the American ideals of equal opportunity for all and of intergenerational mobility seem to be fading, it helps to first define the concept of “mobility.” By one definition, it is a measure of how likely children are to overtake their parents in terms of income. Under that guideline, upward mobility appears to be alive and well: Some 84% of US adults attain that milestone, and for those raised in the lowest income quintile, that number rises to 93%. Another way to approach the issue is to examine how likely someone is to ascend from one income classification to another as an adult. By ...

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