Earlier this month I was asked to submit an article to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution for their “Atlanta Forward” feature. The topic was a recent study by Harvard and UC Berkeley which stated that only 4% or Atlantans born in 1980-1981 climbed from the bottom 25% of wage earners to the top. The article appeared in the August 13th edition of the paper and online. Currently it resides in their online subscriber section. Below is the text of that article.
Also, earlier this week I was a guest on Tim Bryant’s “Newsmakers” program on WGAU in Athens. We talked about using technology in the Legislative process and a new “app” written by my colleague Rep. Mike Dudgeon and implemented in the House by Speaker Ralston. It allows us to easily compare various versions of Legislation electronically to see what changes were made. I appeared on the show about half way into it. You can listen to the audio at the bottom of this post.
AJC ARTICLE ON INTERGENERATIONAL MOBILITY
All Americans Deserve A Chance At The American Dream.
The concept of the “American Dream” is enshrined in our Declaration of Independence which says we have the “…right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” As long as there has been an America, people have come here wanting a chance to live that American Dream.
While there may be differing definitions, I think we can all agree that a central component of the American Dream is that everyone should have the opportunity to succeed no matter the station in life to which they are born. We are the land of opportunity, and while nothing is guaranteed and success is not assured, the opportunity is there for all.
The study on intergenerational mobility released by Harvard and UC-Berkeley casts doubt as to whether Americans at the bottom of the income scale can really achieve the American Dream.
Unfortunately the results for most of the South were not encouraging. Only 4% of children born in metro-Atlanta between 1980 and 1981, whose parents earned less than $25,000 per year, were able to climb to the top fifth of income earners. Not the kind of statistic you’d put in tourism brochures, and certainly not what we all want for ourselves and our children.
Headlines trumpeted problems across the South, but it should be noted that Indianapolis, Detroit, Cleveland, and Cincinnati aren’t doing much better. Those that would say this is simply a “red state” problem are standing on shaky ground.
The study provides food for thought for both Republicans and Democrats. For example, government programs such as the Earned Income Tax Credit did not help people climb from the bottom 25% to the top. Areas with higher income mobility had more two-parent households and more involvement in community groups like churches. While many are weary of debating social issues, this study demonstrates that issues such as marriage and religious freedom impact our society greatly.
Another key factor in mobility is the presence of a quality education. Many parts of Georgia are struggling, contributing to the challenges low income children face. Rather than blaming teachers or demanding more money, we need to have a serious debate about how we are educating Georgia’s children. The system needs serious reform because what we are doing now isn’t getting the job done.
As the study shows a thriving economy is necessary to lift people out of poverty. Georgia is, and must remain a good place to do business. I am proud to be part of a Legislature that is continually working to make Georgia the best place in the Nation to do business.
The American Dream should be available to everyone, regardless of where they are born or how much money their parents earn. Government can play a role in creating an environment where economic growth is possible. Government must also do better in providing a quality education for all. But government ultimately cannot solve this problem. Economic, religious, civic institutions, and families must be strong and vibrant for our citizens to succeed.
WGAU INTERVIEW 8/19/13