What Ever Happened To Upward Mobility?

Why the U.S. has become the land of less opportunity--and what we can do to revive the American Dream

Joakim Eskildsen for TIME

Lesley Perez, 24, is a New York City kindergarten teacher and earns just $23,000 a year. To save money, she lives with her parents. She is $35,000 in debt from college loans.

America's story, our national mythology, is built on the idea of being an opportunity society. From the tales of Horatio Alger to the real lives of Henry Ford and Mark Zuckerberg, we have defined our country as a place where everyone, if he or she works hard enough, can get ahead. As Alexis de Tocqueville argued more than 150 years ago, it's this dream that enables Americans to tolerate much social inequality--this coming from a French aristocrat--in exchange for what we perceive as great dynamism and opportunity in our society. Modern surveys confirm what Tocqueville sensed back then: Americans care much...

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