International Herald Tribune
By: Chrystia Freeland
July 3, 2012
America likes to think of itself as a middle-class country, with a moderate middle-of-the-road political majority. But as the middle class is economically hollowed out, will the political middle inevitably shrink, too? In fact, maybe that's happening already.
This was the question that came to mind for me at the Aspen Ideas festival, as I listened to the assembled affluent, politically moderate Americans wring their hands about the fiscal deficit, and pay scant attention to what White House economist Alan Krueger termed the "middle class jobs deficit," which I write about in my Page Two column.
What worried me most about Prof. Krueger's remarks was his observation that the erosion of the U.S. middle class isn't just today's problem -- it is being inherited by future generations.
"One of the concerns I have is that the rise in inequality is going to lead to a decline in social mobility," Prof. Krueger said at Aspen. "The U.S. has relatively low income mobility across generations. The research indicates that the correlation in income between parents and children is around 0.5. One way of thinking about this is the chance of someone going from the bottom 10 percent to the top 10 percent in the U.S. is about the same as the chance of a father who is 5' 6'' or shorter having a son who is over 6' 1''. You know, it happens, but it doesn't happen all that frequently."
Bad news for the American middle class, and bad news for America.