A new article in the WP bewails the fact that a child born to money is more likely to succeed than a child born into a poor family
, even when the rich kid is a total screw-up and the poor kid "does everything right."
Specifically, rich high school dropouts remain in the top about as much as poor college grads stay stuck in the bottom — 14 versus 16 percent, respectively. Not only that, but these low-income strivers are just as likely to end up in the bottom as these wealthy ne'er-do-wells. Some meritocracy.
What's going on? Well, it's all about glass floors and glass ceilings. Rich kids who can go work for the family business — and, in Canada at least, 70 percent of the sons of the top 1 percent do just that — or inherit the family estate don't need a high school diploma to get ahead. It's an extreme example of what economists call "opportunity hoarding." That includes everything from legacy college admissions to unpaid internships that let affluent parents rig the game a little more in their children's favor.
But even if they didn't, low-income kids would still have a hard time getting ahead. That's, in part, because they're targets for diploma mills that load them up with debt, but not a lot of prospects. And even if they do get a good degree, at least when it comes to black families, they're more likely to still live in impoverished neighborhoods that keep them disconnected from opportunities.
We've known this for a while. America used to be the land of class mobility, but no longer. Europe -- filthy, socialist "old" Europe -- is way ahead of us in that department.
What bothers me here is the use of the term "meritocracy." That's the problem, right there -- that word
. The fact that we have internalized "meritocracy" as an ideal demonstrates how and why we have betrayed our principles. To understand what I'm talking about, check out the Chris Hayes lecture embedded above. Yes, I know that many of you watch Hayes all the time on cable news, and a few of you probably want to bitch about this or that aspect of what he does and what he represents. This
lecture (presented a couple of years ago) is quite good, and I would advise you not to judge it until you've heard it.