America is the land of opportunity. I once believed that. After all, I had an uncle when I was growing up -- a man who was much older than me, but who was living evidence that America was a land of opportunity.
My uncle was born around the turn of the last century. High school bored him, so he dropped out and instead went to work as an office boy. As an office boy, he made himself stand out by taking on extra chores beyond those required of him. Eventually his enthusiasm for work was noticed by his managers and, when he was a bit older, they offered him a job in sales.
My uncle approached sales the same way he had approached office work: He went the extra mile for his customers. They appreciated it and gave him so much business that he became the top salesman in his company. After that, he rose through the ranks to become sales manager, then district sales manager, then the vice president of sales. And he didn't stop there.
By the time he retired, my uncle was chairman of the board. A real life Horatio Alger story. Growing up, I didn't need to look further than my uncle to see proof America was the land of opportunity.
By most accounts, there was a time when it was true that people had a better chance of success in America than they did in other countries. Is that still the case today?
Not according to The Equality Trust -- which is a British organization that specializes in studying socioeconomic equality. After studying upward social mobility in many countries, The Equality Trust summarized their findings in this graph:
You might also notice the chart shows that where income inequality is high, upward social mobility is low. I have nothing against people getting rich. But there seems to be something wrong when only a few get rich and the rest get poorer.
My uncle's generation is long gone now. And perhaps gone with it is America's leadership as the land of opportunity. I don't know if we will ever recapture that.