Students in my Family and Society class write three short essays at the end of the semester, each reporting on one research finding or social theory they found surprising. I love to read these essays: evidence of their learning and a window into their world. The first, by C.N., responds to data about social class in the United. States.
“The American Dream once did exist, but research shows it no longer does. The American Dream was the thought that, even if you were poor, if you worked hard you could become rich. In reality, there is little substantial social mobility, and the U.S. is less socially mobile than other industrialized countries. There are two reasons for little social mobility.”
“The first reason is the tools that were once used are not as effective anymore. Today education is still very important, but the rich are at an advantage. Rich children are able to get into the best colleges, meaning they receive the best education, which gets them high paying jobs.”
“The second reason is rich families are favored by the U.S. tax structure. Taxes no longer redistribute wealth, but tax the poor the largest percentage (Seccombe p. 143).”
“These two factors make it that much harder to achieve the American Dream. In a study done from 1979 to 1998, three thousand father-and-son pair were compared, and 70 percent of sons remained in the same social class or were worse off than their fathers (p. 143).”
“Living in America, I have always heard from people, in textbooks, and in movies that anything is possible in America, such as becoming rich even when poor. I always learned throughout history that America was the nation where hopes and dreams come true, but every teacher failed to inform me that the American Dream is no longer true.”
“America is the land of freedom, but it no longer guarantees a person that they can start all over in America anymore. Children have been told by their parents that if you work really hard you can be whatever you want to be, and children believe them. When people think of America they think of the land of hopes and dreams, but that reputation is no longer true for any social class, except for the rich.”
-C.N., Sociology 2433, The Family and Society