Thursday, December 30, 2004

Faltering meritocracy in America

Excellent article in the Economist. The data, though complex, seem to indicate that while income and wealth inequality are growing, social mobility has either not changed or decreased slightly. Also, the US does not seem to allow any more social mobility than european countries like Germany or Sweden.

Paradoxically, "...Members of the American elite live in an intensely competitive universe. As children, they are ferried from piano lessons to ballet lessons to early-reading classes. As adolescents, they cram in as much after-school coaching as possible. As students, they compete to get into the best graduate schools. As young professionals, they burn the midnight oil for their employers. And, as parents, they agonise about getting their children into the best universities. It is hard for such people to imagine that America is anything but a meritocracy: their lives are a perpetual competition. Yet it is a competition among people very much like themselves—the offspring of a tiny slither of society—rather than among the full range of talents that the country has to offer.

...America's great universities are increasingly reinforcing rather than reducing these educational inequalities. Poorer students are at a huge disadvantage, both when they try to get in and, if they are successful, in their ability to make the most of what is on offer. This disadvantage is most marked in the elite colleges that hold the keys to the best jobs. Three-quarters of the students at the country's top 146 colleges come from the richest socio-economic fourth, compared with just 3% who come from the poorest fourth (the median family income at Harvard, for example, is $150,000). This means that, at an elite university, you are 25 times as likely to run into a rich student as a poor one."


Anonymous said...

China's 'Haves' Stir the 'Have Nots' to Violence

WANZHOU, China - The encounter, at first, seemed purely pedestrian. A man carrying a bag passed a husband and wife on a sidewalk. The man's bag brushed the woman's pants leg, leaving a trace of mud. Words were exchanged. A scuffle ensued.

Easily forgettable, except that one of the men, Yu Jikui, was a lowly porter. The other, Hu Quanzong, boasted that he was a ranking government official. Mr. Hu beat Mr. Yu using the porter's own carrying stick, then threatened to have him killed.

For Wanzhou, a Yangtze River port city, the script was incendiary. Onlookers spread word that a senior official had abused a helpless porter. By nightfall, tens of thousands of people had swarmed Wanzhou's central square, where they tipped over government vehicles, pummeled policemen and set fire to city hall.

Minor street quarrel provokes mass riot. The Communist Party, obsessed with enforcing social stability, has few worse fears. Yet the Wanzhou uprising, which occurred on Oct. 18, is one of nearly a dozen such incidents in the past three months, many touched off by government corruption, police abuse and the inequality of the riches accruing to the powerful and well connected.

"People can see how corrupt the government is while they barely have enough to eat," said Mr. Yu, reflecting on the uprising that made him an instant proletarian hero - and later forced him into seclusion. "Our society has a short fuse, just waiting for a spark."

Though it is experiencing one of the most spectacular economic expansions in history, China is having more trouble maintaining social order than at any time since the Tiananmen Square democracy movement in 1989.


Anonymous said...

I am struck by the large number of international students that are enrolled on our campus. Some or many are have parents or immediate family members who are American residents or they are American residents themselves. The international students are surely an economic elite.


Anonymous said...

Vanguard Returns
12/31/03 to 12/30/04

S&P is up 10.9%
Growth Index is 7.4
Value Index is 15.4

Mid Cap Index is 20.3

Small Cap Index is 20.1
Small Cap Value is 23.6

Europe Index is 21.1
Pacific Index is 18.1

Energy is 36.2
Health Care is 9.8
REIT Index is 31.0

High Yield Corporate Bond Fund is 8.5
Long Term Corporate Bond Fund is 8.2


Anonymous said...

National Index Returns
12/31/03 - 12/30/04

Australia 31.1
Canada 22.3
Denmark 32.0
France 19.7
Germany 17.0
Hong Kong 24.3
Ireland 43.4
Japan 15.3
Norway 54.5
Sweden 37.9
Switzerland 16.0
UK 19.8


steve said...


Foreign students studying in the US are definitely from the elite - even at a public school like Oregon the out of state (or country) tuition is $15K. We have large numbers of students from Japan, Taiwan, Korea and China here, and the school benefits greatly from them.

What do you teach?

Ibrar Hussain said...

Nyc and gr8 information about Faltering meritocracy in America, i also find two sites like this called Free Online Study and Free Online Radio Stations

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