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Getting to the starting line

I have an article up at Forbes.com for part of their package on “The American Dream”. I argue that America isn’t the land of opportunity that I like to think it is:
Who could argue with the idea that America is the land of opportunity? Since the country was born, millions of desperate immigrants have fled poverty, war and oppression to become citizens of the land of the free. America’s entrepreneurial culture is famous: It’s easy to take risks, start a new business. Anyone can become the next Bill Gates.
It is one of the touchstone beliefs that makes America what it is. And as an admiring outsider–I am English, although my daughter was born in Washington, D.C.–I’ve always found it compelling.
There’s just one problem: On one very important measure, America offers less opportunity than almost any other rich country. The real lands of opportunity are places like Canada, Finland and especially Denmark.
The measure I’m using is hard to calculate but easy to understand: How much of your parents’ income rubs off on you? If your father was rich at the age of 40, how likely is it that you will be rich at the age of 40? And if he was poor, are you also doomed to poverty?

Continued on Forbes.com, subscription free.

10th of October, 2007Other Writing • Comments off