How easy is it to move on up?

The Pew Charitable Trusts just released a top-to-bottom study on income inequality, titled Getting Ahead or Losing Ground: Economic Mobility in America. (Read the press release here or a PDF of the whole report here.) The report emphasizes the importance of a college degree, noting that 84 percent of Americans born into the bottom income quintile who graduate from college "move up at least one rung on the economic ladder," but it also notes that family background is at least as important as education: "23 percent of those born into the top quintile that do not get a degree stay at the top as adults, a slightly higher percentage than the number of college graduates from the bottom quintile who manage to climb to the top."

The report, authored by three Brookings Institution scholars, also points out that several European nations have greater economic mobility than the US does: "In particular, 42 percent of [American] sons born into the bottom income quintile stay there as adults, compared to 25 percent in Denmark, 28 percent in Norway, and 30 percent in the United Kingdom."

Nevertheless, "Americans are less likely than others to believe that the government should take responsibility for reducing income disparities; only one-third of Americans (33 percent) hold this view, compared to percentages ranging from 46 percent (in Canada) to 89 percent (in Portugal) in the other countries."