Peter and Isabel Malkin Professor of Public Policy at Harvard University
Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis
It’s the American dream: get a good education, work hard, buy a house, and achieve prosperity and success. This is the America we believe in—a nation of opportunity, constrained only by ability and effort. But during the last twenty-five years we have seen a disturbing “opportunity gap” emerge. Americans have always believed in equality of opportunity, the idea that all kids, regardless of their family background, should have a decent chance to improve their lot in life. But now this central tenet of the American dream seems no longer true or at the least, much less true than it was.
In his latest bestselling book Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis, Robert D. Putnam, Ph.D. shows that America has been veering further away from equality of opportunity for several decades, and the recent trends presage a collapse on social mobility rates in the decades ahead. The American Dream is increasingly out of reach for lower income students. Shockingly, smart poor kids (lower third of parental income, top third in test scores) have less chance of graduating from college than not-so-smart rich kids (upper third of parental income, bottom third in test scores).