An essential part of the American ethos is having the next generation prosper more than its predecessor. But for many Americans, especially those in the lower rungs of the economy, the future may hold a dimmer prospect.
The Economic Mobility Project, a product of The Pew Charitable Trusts, warns that growing income inequality in America threatens the age-old dream of each generation climbing the economic ladder.
It already is relatively uncommon in America to move from the lower class to the middle class, according to Pew researchers, let alone to the upper class. While two-thirds of Americans earn more than their parents after adjusting for inflation, the gain is fairly small and reflects general economic growth in the country more than a leapfrog to a bigger pond.
Erin Currier, director of the Economic Mobility Project, told NPR that data doesn't support the widely accepted notion that America is the world's land of opportunity. "This notion that we have about ourselves, as America being somehow exceptional in terms of our opportunity, is not accurate," Currier says. "The data show that the United States actually has less relative mobility than Western European and Canada."