The widespread belief that the U.S. is mired in an era of reduced economic mobility is a myth. Some prominent research cited at the link says as much. There are several kinds of mobility, of course — cultural mobility, social mobility, physical mobility, and they all bear relationships to economic mobility in one way or another. The article points out that physical mobility has increased dramatically, yet today it is less important than ever in the sense that we can accomplish so much from the comfort of a living room couch. “Today, most Americans have access to resources that were once inconceivable, and that access lets us cover more cultural and social ground than humans had ever previously been able to manage.”
I always enjoy discussions of the inadequacies of economic yardsticks (the author mistakenly refers to such measures as “econometrics”), especially measures of output like GDP. The article uses a little humor to illustrate some of these measurement problems (e.g., “What’s the value of being able to track Alec Baldwin’s meltdowns in real-time?”), but the measurement problems contribute to the fallacy of immobility.
“… in the midst of all these developments, our reigning preoccupation is a false narrative about dwindling economic mobility. Apparently the breakthroughs and benefits accrue in such dizzying but routine fashion now that even our most fervent potentates of hope and change have trouble keeping track of our progress.”