Wednesday, November 06, 2019

If Americans are better off than a decade ago, why doesn’t it feel that way?

Jessica Goodheart
Tue 5 Nov 2019 05.00 EST
Last modified on Tue 5 Nov 2019 15.48 EST

Economic mobility is on the decline, according to a Harvard team of researchers led by economist Raj Chetty.

More than 90% of children who were born in 1940 grew up to earn more than their parents. Only 50% of children born 40 years later will go on to earn more than their parents. But the top 1% is doing better than fine: the average CEO pulled in 312 times as much as the average worker in 2017, up from 20 times as much in 1965, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

The rise in economic inequality is a global phenomenon. But it is more extreme in the US, where social mobility has been shown to be lower than in other industrialized nations, and where the safety net is weaker and poverty more severe. Even though the US spends more per capita on healthcare, the system covers fewer people and produces worse outcomes, including lower life expectancy and higher infant mortality rates.

If the United States had experienced the same decline in infant deaths as have other Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development member states since 1960, 300,000 fewer babies would have died over the course of 50 years, according to a recent report.


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