We already know that over the past forty years, changes in tax policy, the conservative war against unions, attempts to dismantle the governmental safety net, the relaxing of campaign finance laws, and resistance to increasing the minimum wage have all contributed to plutocracy in America. As Suzanne Mettler noted in the New York Times this past weekend, higher education, too, has become a great driver of inequality and class hardening in the U.S. In short, rich are much more likely to go to college, and much more likely to finish once they get there, then poor people. And the statistics Mettler cites are shocking.
Three out of four adults who grow up in the top quarter of the income spectrum earn baccalaureate degrees by age 24, but it’s only one out of three in the next quarter down. In the bottom half of the economic distribution, it’s less than one out of five for those in the third bracket and fewer than one out of 10 in the poorest.
You read that right. Around 75% of the children of the rich complete college; under 10% of the children of the poor complete college. I wonder how the
plutocrats’ water-carriers avatars of the market as moral arbiter would spin this one.
And, as Mettler continues, it gets worse when we consider that the rich are attending private non-profit and public institutions; the poor are more likely to attend for-profit institutions from which they are not likely to graduate, and end up in serious debt, to boot. So much for education being something to equalize opportunity. It’s become a ladder of opportunity only for those whose parents can afford a stepladder to it in the first place.
So, to recap, how to get rich, or even comfortably well-to-do, if you’re born in today’s America:
- win birth lottery
- win powerball lottery
The sad thing is, for most of the population, the second option is the only one available.