The Great Gatsby Curve

Today, Paul Krugman drew to my attention some interesting work by economist Miles Corak on what is called “the Great Gatsby curve”, the tendency for economic inequality to lead to decreased social mobility. The curve is fascinating, because it illustrates a genuine negative empirical consequence from the present distribution of wealth in the United States. This negative consequence is no more negative if you’re on the right or if you’re on the left. The most committed right-winger still thinks that we should have a high degree of social mobility–capable children born to poor parents should be successful, while incapable children born to rich parents should fail. The Great Gatsby curve indicates that this does not happen–our outcomes directly influence the next generation’s opportunities. This connects equality of outcome with equality of opportunity in a way that should be disturbing to the right.

Read the rest of this entry »