The insurmountable divide

In the United States, and across the world for that matter, there are various divides. There are divides between Duke fans and Carolina fans, between freezing temperatures in the winter and hot summer weather, and, on a more serious note, the divide between the rich and the poor.

America is a country that prides itself on supporting the underdog. There are few things that Americans love more than the rags to riches story–the story of a person with the odds stacked against him overcoming obstacles and achieving success. Americans love the American Dream.

But it seems more and more that America is not the land of opportunity. Sure, for the rich and the upper middle class opportunities abound, but for the poor and the underprivileged there are very little opportunities and chances to succeed.

An article written in the New York Times by Joseph Stiglitz describes the growing gap between America’s rich and poor. “Americans are coming to realize that their cherished narrative of social and economic mobility is a myth. Grand deceptions of this magnitude are hard to maintain for long — and the country has already been through a couple of decades of self-deception.”

Stiglitz continues to write that one of the main barriers people in poverty face is actually escaping poverty. Social mobility, the ability for individuals to move to from lower class to middle class, for example, is not always possible or probable. “[Only] 58 percent of Americans born into the bottom fifth of income earners move out of that category, and just 6 percent born into the bottom fifth move into the top. Economic mobility in the United States is lower than in most of Europe and lower than in all of Scandinavia.”

Just because people wish to escape poverty doesn’t mean they always have the resources or ability to do so. Without a college education people in the lower class face poor job opportunities, but with a college education they face a decade of debt.

In a book titled Whatever It Takes, author Paul Tough writes about a man’s attempt to bring children living in Harlem out of poverty by providing them with stellar education. Tough described the disparity between the rich and the poor, just in New York. “The average white family in Manhattan with children under five now had an annual income of $284,000, while their black counterparts made an average of $31,000. Growing up in New York wasn’t just an uneven playing field anymore. It was like two separate sporting events.”

Finding a way to level the playing field is not just the moral thing to do, but the necessary, imperative action to take. Not until people of all socio-economic statuses have an equal chance to succeed will America be the great country its people think it is.

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