Does upward mobility exist anymore?

Filed under OPINION

A new poll reveals that many Americans are questioning their prospects for “upward mobility.”  The high level of pessimism is reflected among respondents in a recent poll conducted by The Hill newspaper that found half (47 percent) of likely voters believe it’s impossible for them to become wealthy during the course of their lifetime.

The survey, conducted as the heated political presidential campaign becomes more acrimonious over the interests of the haves and the have-nots, found that fewer than 2 in 5 likely voters (37 percent) think they can ever become rich. The Hill newspaper’s survey findings suggest pessimism about the possibility of upward mobility as economic growth remains weak and jobs scarce. The national debate over wealth is intensifying as it creates economic divisions across the country’s population segments.

Wider gap
Between 2005 and 2010 the median net worth of Americans under 35 fell 37 percent, and the wealth gap between the young and the old in America is wider than it’s ever been. The percentage of the workforce under age 25 has dropped 13.2 percent since 2008, and the U.S. unemployment rate is 12 percent for those age 18 to 29 because this age group’s parents aren’t retiring.

The wealth – more specifically, the median net worth – of households in the United States is varied in relation to race, education, geographic location and gender.  Wealth in the U.S. is unevenly distributed, with the wealthiest 25 percent of U.S. households owning 87 percent of the total wealth.

The median wealth of White households is 20 times that of Black households. For Black Americans, the annual median household income in 2010 was $29,328. It was $35,856 among all races. While Blacks make 62 cents of every dollar of income that Whites make, they only have 10 cents for every dollar of wealth that Whites have.

In The Hill poll, almost 40 percent of people said that the threshold to being wealthy was a $500,000 annual income.  Twenty percent put the bar above $1 million. Thirty-one percent of people said a family earning $250,000 a year is wealthy.  And 9 percent said $100,000 was the threshold.

Two Americas
Each day, America is comprised more of economic haves and have-nots. Since the 2007 recession, the share of total wealth owned by the nation’s wealthiest one percent grew to 37.1 percent and that owned by the top 20 percent grew to 87.7 percent. The 2007 recession, and aftermath, also increased the wealth gap between the 1 percent and the 99 percent.

According to a CBS News/New York Times poll, a majority of registered voters believe that Mitt Romney’s policies favor the rich. Fifty-three percent say Romney’s policies favor the wealthy.

Eleven percent says his policies favor the middle class, while 2 percent say they favor the poor.

Thirty percent say Romney’s policies treat all groups equally.

Of the social segments that favor President Barack Obama’s policies, 21 percent say his policies favor the rich, while 22 percent say they favor the middle class and 24 percent say they favor the poor.

Twenty-five percent say Obama’s policies treat all groups equally.

Are Black voters in a totally different place than the mainstream of Americans?

William Reed is publisher of “Who’s Who in Black Corporate America” and  is available for speaking/seminar projects via BaileyGroup.org.

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