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Opportunity Hoarding I: Mobility

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Image Credit In the wake of the college admissions scandal of 2019 the media briefly focused on how the wealthy use their advantages to secure admission to the best schools. As part of the coverage, there was some discussion of opportunity hoarding, a concept developed by Richard Reeves in his Dream Hoarders. The gist of the concept is that opportunity hoarding occurs when parents try to seek advantages for their children in ways that are harmful to others. One extreme example would be parents disparaging children competing with their own for school admission. The practice of opportunity hoarding raises many important moral issues that I will address over the course of a short series of essays. I will begin by discussing the concept of economic mobility in the context of opportunity hoarding. Americans want to believe in economic mobility—that by hard work, people will be better off than their parents. While people tend to just talk about economic mobility, it is important to distinguish between two types: relative mobility and absolute mobility. In both types, mobility is a matter of moving up or down relative to one’s parents. Relative mobility is measured by comparing the economic ranking of current adults relative to the rankings of their parents. This can be illustrated by an analogy to running road races. When comparing two road races, my relative performance is a measure of my place in the second race relative to how I placed in the first race. If I placed better in the second race than in the first one, then my relative performance was upward. If I placed worse, then my relative performance would be downward. In this analogy, the race is a generation: the first race would correspond to the economic ranking of the parents and the second would be analogous to the current adult’s ranking. Absolute mobility is a measure of whether the current adults have a higher adjusted (for inflation and such) income at the same age as their parents. Going back to. . .

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News source: A Philosopher's Blog

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