Why U.S. economic mobility is so low, in one chart

at 01:15 PM ET, 11/17/2011

Why is economic mobility so much lower in the United States than in comparably industrialized nations? A new report from the Pew Economic Mobility Project zeroes in on one major factor: In America there’s a stronger link between parents’ education levels and children’s success than in any other country researchers investigated.

The report notes the size of the achievement gap: “In the United States, children with high-educated parents scored in the 73rd percentile on average, compared with children who have low-educated parents and tended to score in the 27th percentile.” The report concludes that other countries have more successful policies and institutions that have helped close this achievement gap, giving children from less-educated families a greater chance of success.

The report also suggests that policy interventions might have a bigger impact during the early years of life: “Preschool exposure can have lasting positive effects on educational and economic disparities by family background, especially for low- and middle-income children.”

This finding tracks with Jonathan Cohn’s recent article in the New Republic that describes how the first two years of life are neurobiologically critical to children’s later success and economic achievement.

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