Rising from rags to riches isn't the American dream, it's an American fairytale, according to Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz.
"The American dream has become a myth," Stiglitz, an economics professor at Columbia University, told the German news magazine Der Spiegel in an interview published Tuesday. "The belief in the American dream is not supported by the data."
There's evidence to support such claims. The U.S. has less economic mobility than Canada and much of Western Europe, according to economic research cited by The New York Times. Seven in ten Americans that start out in the bottom fifth of family income stay in the lower class as adults, and more than six in ten Americans that start out in the top family income quintile stay in the upper class as adults, according to a July report by the Pew Charitable Trusts.
While the data may not be there to back the idea of the American dream, there are some that still consider it to be pretty important. Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan, for his part, said last year that "70 percent of Americans want the American dream. They believe in the American idea. Only 30 percent want the welfare state."
Stiglitz told Der Spiegel that in spite of anecdotes about poor people becoming rich, overall "the life chances of a young U.S. citizen are more dependent on the income and education of his parents than in any other advanced industrial country for which there is data."
(Hat tip: Mark Thoma.)