Recession and Social Policy

An interesting article discussing a new book from Brookings:

Creating an Opportunity Society begins by showing that, especially for the poorest children, this is something of a myth. By international standards, intergenerational mobility in the US is quite low. This will surprise few who have ventured into a US public housing project or troubled inner-city school, but many middle-class Americans never have. The figures show that US children born in the lowest and highest quintiles of the income distribution are more likely to stay there than in Britain, for example, and much more likely than in countries such as Sweden and Denmark.

But what to do about it? The book confirms a finding well established in the literature, that transition to the middle class is all but guaranteed for poor children if they do three things: finish high school, work full time and marry before having children. The US underperforms as an opportunity society because so many of its young people fail at one or more. The book focuses on these areas.

Education, as the Obama administration recognises, is pivotal. The book calls for gradual increases in spending on early education programmes for the poor, an exceptionally productive investment according to all the research.