Social mobility: Is it just an American dream?

We all know them, those grandiose last names synonymous with power and wealth–Rockefeller, Vanderbilt, Guggenheim and, dare I say it, Hilton. Recent studies show that, while a prominent last name may not guarantee status as an oil, steel or railroad tycoon, it may offer easier access to more prestigious jobs.  





John D. Rockefeller, courtesy of

This week, the New York City-based blog Gawker published a post about the virtual nonexistence of social mobility in modern American society. In a country that was founded on the promise of upward mobility for those that worked hard, it seems that the power to change your personal circumstances has run out. America is quickly gaining ground on older European societies with rigid class systems, like Great Britain. In the United States, the gap of inequality is widening. Gawker suggests a potential remedy for our current situation–send your sons to liberal arts colleges where they will have ample opportunity to “make out and possibly date the Daughters of American Industry.”

One reader of the blog commented on the efforts of Christian Gerhartsreiter, a German man who took on the alias of Clark Rockefeller after moving to the U.S. Using the borrowed surname, he married Harvard Business School Graduate Sandra Boss, and lived off of her wealth for 12 years until she discovered his secret. Naturally, upon this discovery he kidnapped their child. And they say social mobility is dead.


Courtesy of

A study conducted in Sweden found that the eighteenth century surnames of elite families make up more than their fair share of modern prosperous jobs in the country, according to The EconomistThe article suggests that it can take anywhere between 300 and 500 years for for families of differing statuses to produce children with the same opportunity for social mobility.

In the United States, a father’s income better predicts his sons income than in seven other countries, including Germany and the U.K., according to an article in The Huffington Post. Societies with high levels of inequality offer less fluidity than more egalitarian societies, like Denmark and Finland. The article suggests that the problem of little social mobility may be alleviated if either political party chose to focus its efforts on the U.S. poverty rate. 

And so, for now we must endure our posts as the plebeians of American society with little hope of circumventing the class system. Unless, of course, we can drink our way onto an MTV reality series, a la Nicole Polizzi. Way to beat the system, Snookie.


Courtesy of chatter 


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