From: Glasgow, Scotland
Like I said - it's OK to agree to disagree. I'm not saying it's easy. It wasn't easy for me. I still think a person can get ahead.
Edit - and I noted gifts I was born with as a factor. We each have a set of attributes that we need to play too. Maybe you are a "brainy" kind of guy. Maybe you are really good at drawing. Or playing music. Or learning languages comes easy for you. Or taking things apart and putting them back together. I had to keep things real. It's ok to want and dream but at the end of the day I went down a road that catered to my strengths and I didn't spend too much time wringing my hands over could-have-bens. I believe that if you can find a job that you like, where you don't watch the clock 5 minutes before quitting time and you take the time to become really-really good at, I think a person will do just fine.
Your position (that a person can still get ahead) is not mutually exclusive from mine (that empirical reality shows that it is unlikelier now (especially post-Reagan) than it has been previously (New Deal/Great Society era).
In a perfectly meritocratic society (also assuming all humans have the same chance for the same talents from conception/birth), there would be a 20% chance for an individual to end up in a given economic quintile.
For the 5th (bottom) quintile, being born there results in a 42% chance that you will remain there. Compare to 20% if it were truly random. Likewise, 39% of those born in the top quintile remain in the top. Numbers from that same 2011 Brookings report.
I was able to find a 2019 update from Brookings, complete with mouseover infographic: https://www.brookings.edu/blog/up-front/2019/02/14/no-room-at-the-top-the-stark-divide-in-black-and-white-economic-mobility/. It hasn't changed much since 2011. The only quintile where the "you can be anything" mantra is actually true is the middle quintile; that's only 20% of the population, by definition. Those born in the 4th quintile have a 50% chance of remaining there or ending up in the bottom quintile. Those born in the top quintile have over a 60% chance of remaining in the top 2 quintiles. Clearly, economic status is much more static than the myth would have us believe.
There seems to be a fair bit of movement in those numbers to me. 40% of the top quintile falling out of the top to one of the bottom 3 shows a whole lot of economic 'mobility'. And 50% of those starting in the 4th quintile and moving up is fairly significant too. While not everyone is going to 'move up', clearly with that data a lot of people are moving up and down the economic spectrum.
I suppose that depends on one's definition of "a lot." Further, the point is more about the obstacles to moving up, not moving down (or more likely: being supplanted by those who did move up). If it were truly possible for anyone to be or do anything they wanted for their career, no matter the income of their parents when they were born, then every quintile from birth would have a 20% distribution in each quintile for where they ended up. Since we don't see this, it follows that there are structural factors at play that prevent people from being able to move up and supplant those above them in the distribution.
TBH, seeing that the middle quintile did have a roughly even distribution as adults was rather surprising to me. I expected to see something more like 15/20/35/15/15 (in order from top to bottom quintiles).
We are seeing some of these structural factors now, in the COVID economy. Obvert's touched on it a bit. There's a lot of inequity in these jobs. There's a lot of talk about the dignity of having a job, and taking pride in doing your job, even if it's "just" flipping burgers or staffing a checkout lane at a grocery store. But the reality is that these jobs have always been treated as second-class jobs by the economy writ large. And we're seeing now how essential those jobs are to our society even functioning, and yet the folks working these now-more-dangerous jobs are those who are paid the least for their labor.
This is so wrong. Better schools, higher education, job contacts, trust funds . . .
I doubt if those people who have those would likely end up at the bottom unless something drastically happened to them.
Which are the structural issues he's talking about - if you're not in the position to take advantage of a better school, or have the finances for higher education or a trust fund, then you're seriously impeded.
So you don't think that doing the best job that you can, and being proud of what you do is worthwhile? I suggest that you change jobs (I don't know where you work or what you do) but go to work with the mentally and physically handicapped. You might have an attitude readjustment.
It's not about Loka's views, it's the value the economy places on these jobs. What's the average wage for someone working with people with mental illness or with disability? Do you think that's fair remuneration for the work. I did it myself for a while, so curious to see what your thoughts are :)