The American Dream of social mobility: what is the only sure way to success?

The third day of the 2018 Gaidar Forum, Russia and the World: Values and Virtues, featured a presentation of the Russian-language edition of The Son Also Rises: Surnames and the History of Social Mobility by Gregory Clark.

Dr. Clark is a professor of economics and philosophy at the University of California, an expert in long-term economic growth, and the economic history of England and India. The main topic of discussion during the presentation was how much our destinies depend on the social status of our parents – a very pressing issue in the modern world. The writer's take on it is quite bold.

People are used to thinking that human society has entered a new stage of development. The social structure is no longer limited to rigid class boundaries, and an individual’s position in it can be very mobile, providing opportunities to rile to the elite as well as to irrevocably lose their leading positions.

However, the paradox of reality is evident: people are still quite skeptical about whether children can rise to a higher socioeconomic status than their parents. Gregory Clark answers sharply and unequivocally – the only sure way to success is to be born in the right family. Our prosperity is directly determined by the background - the paradigm suggested by his study. 

Using the analysis of world history, applying his own methodology to the study of modern society, the writer concludes that state policies can do little to affect social mobility. “Only the fact that a person inherits or does not inherit certain abilities, regardless of kinship or their financial standing, can dilute the density of colors ,” the expert notes.

The organizers include the Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration (RANEPA), the Gaidar Institute for Economic Policy (Gaidar Institute) and the Association of Innovative Regions of Russia (AIRR).

The program outline is available at the forum website.

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