Americans like to think of our country as a place where anybody, no matter how poor they're born, can make something of themselves with enough hard work. But as far as rich nations go, the United States scores pretty wretchedly on measures of "economic mobility" -- how likely children are to be wealthier than their parents -- falling below countries such as Denmark, Australia, Spain, France, and Norway, among others.
The OECD's latest report on education across the developed world offers us one potential explanation for why. We have glaring lack of "educational mobility." In the U.S., if you're born to parents who didn't make it far through school, chances are you won't either. Per the report:
In Italy, Portugal, Turkey and the United States, young people from families with low levels of education have the least chance of attaining a higher level of education than their parents. In these countries, more than 40% of these young people have not completed upper secondary education, and fewer than 20% have made it to tertiary education.
A diploma predicts potential earnings power. And so it shouldn't be surprising that many of the countries that beat us on economic mobility also beat us on educational mobility. This first chart shows children born to parents who didn't graduate from college. Those to the lower left are more likely to drop out of high school less likely to get a higher degree. Those to the top right are most likely to finish college and exceed their parents' education. Notice the United States in the lower left and Australia, Sweden,
Denmark and Canada in the top right.