Depressing information for the normal set: a new study from an economist at UC Davis has found that social mobility, while still a cool concept, is not really happening. By following the rare surnames of prosperous Swedes (prosperous Swedes wake up every morning, clad in their flaxen robes, singing "I am a prosperous Sweeeeede!"), Gregory Clark found that the names of elite families in the 18th century still make up more than their correct proportion of premium jobs. According to The Economist:
As late as 2011 aristocratic surnames appear among the ranks of lawyers, considered for this purpose a high-status position, at a frequency almost six times that of their occurrence in the population as a whole. Mr Clark reckons that even in famously mobile Sweden, some 70-80% of a family's social status is transmitted from generation to generation across a span of centuries. Other economists use similar techniques to reveal comparable immobility in societies from 19th-century Spain to post-Qing-dynasty China. Inherited advantage is detectable for a very long time.
In short: your pal Sven Vanderbilt-Linnaeus is probably going to have a pretty easy go of it.
Working in conjunction with professor Neil Cummins of Queens College, Clark found that in Britain "70-80% of economic advantage seems to be transmitted from generation to generation."
But what about America, land of opportunity (and robes of only the finest Brillo)? Our widening inequality does not bode well at all for future striving generations, as our social mobility is now roughly even with Britain. Being even with a country that prides itself on a iron-tight class system is pretty effin' bad.
So what hope does the rabble have? Clark found that "low mobility may be down to differences in underlying 'social competence'. Such competence is potentially heritable and is reinforced by the human tendency to mate with partners of similar traits and ability."
A proposal: Liberal Arts College, while possibly not the most useful way for a young man of the middle classes to spend his youth, does briefly afford him the opportunity to make out and possibly date the Daughters of American Industry. So make out hard, fellas! The end of social inequality is in your trembling, calloused, peasant hands.