The American Dream is slowly dying. The idealized notion that anyone can go from nothing to something brought many to our shores, but it is becoming little more than a tale. Despite the stories of those who have gone from rags to riches, according to a new study by the Economic Mobility Project, the American Dream is slowly becoming unattainable.

The Washington Post explains:

Among the most striking findings: The chances of moving from the bottom of the income spectrum to the very top is only 4 percent, a figure that suggests the American “rags-to-riches” story is “more often found in Hollywood than in reality,” the survey noted.

Researchers parsed data from about 2,200 families participating in the University of Michigan’s Panel Study of Income Dynamics, which has tracked the family income and wealth accumulated by a group of parents and their children from 1968 to 2009.

… But the study showed that Americans in the past 40 years have had a harder time moving up and down between income classes — what the researchers called “relative mobility.” Forty-three percent of those raised by the bottom level of income earners were likely to be stuck there as adults, while 40 percent of the children from the highest-earning families were likely to remain high earners themselves.

Africans Americans and those without a college degree have the most difficulty climbing the rungs, according to the study, “Pursuing the American Dream: Economic Mobility Across Generations.”

African Americans have a harder time earning more than their parents than whites, and, among the middle class, only 23 percent accumulate more wealth than their parents, compared with 56 percent of whites. Half were likely to fall out of the middle income ranges and into the ranks of the lower class. This study does not include data on Latino families because only a handful were part of the original study group from 1968.

So, how can you up your chances of earning more and increasing your social mobility? The old-fashioned way: education. Those with college degrees are more likely to “rise from the bottom of the family income ladder to the top.”

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  • Rhea

    I have no interest in having more than my parents. In fact, I have little interest in making more than my maternal grandparents. If parents make it far enough to be more than comfortable, there’s little incentive for offspring to go further. They’ll still be more than comfortable making what their parents made (adjusting for inflation and cost of living). For me, my father finished college whereas his didn’t finish high school, he designed the sort of plants his father labored in, and in the end, he retired relatively young, with a few million in the bank. I don’t feel the drive to retire younger than he did, or with a few more million than he did. He’s the rags to riches story; I don’t need to be.

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