I just want to come back briefly to the point I made in this post. The degree to which a society is socially mobile determines the degree of equality of opportunity. If people find it difficult to climb the social ladder on their own merit, then this is an indication of a lack of equality of opportunity. Since there is no reason to believe that poor people have less talented children than rich people, the fact that children in poor families will grow up to be poor as well points to inequality of opportunity and obstacles to use and develop one’s talents.
Equality of opportunity is a human rights issue in two ways:
- Human rights are designed to give people equal access to education, health care, professions, elected positions etc. so that they can have the same opportunities as others to do with their life what they desire. Of course, “same” not in an absolute sense. Talents, luck, effort and persistence cannot be equalized.
- The absence of poverty is a human right. If inequality of opportunity hinders the fight against poverty, then this is a human rights issue.
The level of social mobility can be quantified as the number of people who have a better (or worse) position in society (e.g. a financially or professionally better position) than their parents. With real equality of opportunity, you would expect people to be in very different social classes than their parents, because people usually have different ambitions, talents and energy than their parents.
One measure of social mobility is therefore the link between parents’ and children’s earnings. In the U.S. – the “Land of Opportunity” remember – you will earn a lot if your parents earn a lot, on average of course.