Sunday, May 15, 2005

What about Asian-Americans?

The NYT has an interesting series coming out on the nature of class in America. So far, I'd give it a B. While there is bias, it's not too thick, a definite improvement. While they do contend that there is a reduction in class mobility, ink is given numbers that may offer a more complex picture.
Even as mobility seems to have stagnated, the ranks of the elite are opening. Today, anyone may have a shot at becoming a United States Supreme Court justice or a C.E.O., and there are more and more self-made billionaires. Only 37 members of last year's Forbes 400, a list of the richest Americans, inherited their wealth, down from almost 200 in the mid-1980's.

The reason our society does work is that most us have been able to improve upon the circumstances of our birth to a satisfactory degree. This means that while few of us joined the Forbes 500, we did, through lots of hard work achieve a better life style than that of our parents.
Many Americans say that they too have moved up the nation's class ladder. In the Times poll, 45 percent of respondents said they were in a higher class than when they grew up, while just 16 percent said they were in a lower one. Over all, 1 percent described themselves as upper class, 15 percent as upper middle class, 42 percent as middle, 35 percent as working and 7 percent as lower.

I had hoped that they would resist the temptation to race monger the issue & acknowledged that many of the racial barriers were broken. But, in the intro to the section, the quote they place next to Maurice Mitchell (who is black), the only minority individual, was "It's hard to get wealthy if your family isn’t". Yet when you look at his profile & complete quote in the slide show section, you see that this high school graduate earns $75,000 dollars a year & said he believed that "a man can start with nothing and work hard and get somewhere."
I was struck by the glaring omission of an Asian American. I can't help wondering why? Is it because it would upset the hints of racial discrimination they were trying to sprinkle around? Afterall, those of Asian decent do not have the option of hidding their ethnicity as do Jews & Catholics & yet, they have clearly done very well in terms on social mobility on all four of the components of class.
The American elite, too, is more diverse than it was. The number of corporate chief executives who went to Ivy League colleges has dropped over the past 15 years. There are many more Catholics, Jews and Mormons in the Senate than there were a generation or two ago. Because of the economic earthquakes of the last few decades, a small but growing number of people have shot to the top.

They have acknowleged the importance of responsible life decisions & the value of delayed gratification. I am interested in seeing if they will exptrapolate on how these factors account for the racial differences as they have failed to link it to the rate differences between various countries. When the rates of out of wedlock births & marriage dissolution is low, the chances of children enjoying a healthy upbringing increases. This increases the chances of class mobility more than anything else.
Family structure, too, differs increasingly along class lines. The educated and affluent are more likely than others to have their children while married. They have fewer children and have them later, when their earning power is high. On average, according to one study, college-educated women have their first child at 30, up from 25 in the early 1970's. The average age among women who have never gone to college has stayed at about 22.

I am happy to see that the fact that those who get to the top pay the price for it is told.
The benefits of the new meritocracy do come at a price. It once seemed that people worked hard and got rich in order to relax, but a new class marker in upper-income families is having at least one parent who works extremely long hours (and often boasts about it). In 1973, one study found, the highest-paid tenth of the country worked fewer hours than the bottom tenth. Today, those at the top work more.

I look forward to the rest of the series, as despite the bias, it does offer some interesting facts. I also found the results of the the poll startling. I never expected to see that so many people opposed the estate tax or that so many had experienced upward mobility. It goes to show how much of what is said in liberal rants is out of touch with the sentiments of the public at large.

But, the $65,000 question is, how will they deal with the issue of Asian Americans?

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