Comparing Race and Class as Contributing Factors of Social Mobility

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"Everyone believes the face of poverty is black. The white poor blend in, the black poor stand out," suggests social activist Bell Hooks (4). At first glance, Hooks's observation seems statistically relevant: 24.7% of African Americans in the United States were living below poverty level in 2008, compared to 11.2% of whites (DeNavas-Walt, Proctor, and Smith 14). However, this casual analysis fails to compare the size of the two populations, which balloons the seemingly paltry 11.2% up to nearly 27 million, versus 9 million for blacks (DeNavas-Walt, Proctor, and Smith 14). As SUNY economist Michael Zweig notes, "The fact that minorities are poor in greater numbers than their share of the total population contributes to the misconception …show more content…
He goes on to claim "The white majority has supported legislation that makes the American Dream truly accessible to all black citizens" (Hamblin 290), thus suggesting universal accessibility of the American Dream. Given the lack of social mobility discussed earlier, accessibility to the American Dream does not seem as widespread as Hamblin portrays it. Although Hamblin's ascension from being raised on welfare to hosting a syndicated talk radio show proves that African Americans can succeed (Hamblin 292), his personal success fails to discredit the current difficulty of social advancement for working-class Americans. Social advancement is not the only difficulty facing working-class Americans. Since 1968, all but the richest twenty percent of the population have seen their share of income shrink. Additionally, erosion of the real wage—a term economists use for wages that have been adjusted for inflation—has deteriorated the buying power of the working class as compared to twenty years ago (Zweig 63). Consequently, the poor not only face a hard time escaping poverty, but they are gradually becoming poorer as well. The gap in college education between working and upper classes offers some explanation for the shift in earnings, as New York Times economics journalist David Leonhardt explains, "College graduates have received steady pay increases over the past two decades,

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