On the American Dream: Families, Flourishing, and Upward Mobility

Over at the Cardus Daily, our think-tank’s daily blog, I have just posted a column that engages the findings of the Equality of Opportunity Project out of Harvard and Berkeley: “Families, Flourishing, and Upward Mobility.”  Here’s a snippet:

If the “American dream” is anything it is a dream of upward mobility: the dream of getting ahead, climbing the ladder, leapfrogging from one class to another in a “land of opportunity”—all if you’re willing to work for it. Too often, fantastic “rags to riches” tales push aside the more mundane stories of generational accomplishments over time, where parents who finish high school make it possible for their children to go to college, achieving some security within the middle class. We shouldn’t discount the unique joy that comes from simply seeing your grandchildren not have to live hand-to-mouth as you once did. 

It is certainly true that this dream easily slides towards idolatry. It can become a nightmare of crass materialism and selfish ambition. But we shouldn’t confuse idolatrous perversions with more humble aspirations of families to simply enjoy a mode of economic security that is conducive with flourishing. Those who are passionate advocates of the poor are often, oddly, knee-jerk critics of the American dream and aspirations to be middle class. How odd. It reminds me of the lyrics of an Everclear song: “I hate those people who love to tell you / money is the root of all that kills. / They have never been poor, / they have never had the joy of a welfare Christmas.” The God who cares about the poor must also be a God who celebrates economic flourishing and stability as features of shalom.

Read the rest of the article.