8/10/2012 9:50 AM ET|
Falling behind? 5 warning signs
Upward mobility seems to have become harder, and a lot of people are having trouble staying in the middle class, let alone getting ahead.
We know what happened during the recession: The economy quaked, joblessness soared, home values plunged, and a big chunk of the middle class fell way behind.
Economists and other experts are now trying to figure out what's likely to happen next. It's well known that income inequality has worsened over the past couple of decades. The incomes of top earners have risen sharply, while median income has stagnated. By some measures, the concentration of wealth among the top 1% of earners is at the highest levels since the 1920s. Nobody disputes that the rich are getting richer while others are stuck in a rut.
The real problem, though, isn't that the wealthy are doing well. It's that people who used to be able to improve their lives and move up the social ladder are having a harder time doing so. "The American Dream, to me, is about social mobility, not equality," Harvard historian Niall Ferguson said at the recent Milken Institute conference in Los Angeles. "What we need to figure out is 'Why has mobility declined?'"
America's stalled social escalator is fueling the Occupy movement, the incendiary debate over wealth in this year's elections and perhaps even long-term cultural change. Experts still aren't entirely sure why it has gotten harder to get ahead, but they're forming and testing a variety of theories. Here are five signs that your prospects may be declining, even if it doesn't feel that way right now.
You've stopped learning. It goes without saying that education is the single most important contributor to success. Those with college and advanced degrees earn far more than those who merely graduated from high school, and many of the manufacturing jobs that used to be pathways to prosperity for high school grads no longer exist. "We have to have kids who, after high school, learn how to do things that will allow them to make a good living," says political scientist Charles Murray, the author of the new book "Coming Apart."
But beyond simply getting a degree, people who are striving to move upward need to continue learning and adding to their skills, to keep up with an economy that changes faster than ever. That could mean formal courses, on-the-job training programs or informal tutorials from friends or colleagues. One hallmark of innovators is the ability to apply ideas from one discipline to another.
You don't associate with influential people. In "Coming Apart," Murray describes a kind of socioeconomic segregation that has occurred in America since 1960, as disparate income groups that used to live in the same communities have drifted into closed enclaves that tend to be made up of people much like themselves. So well-educated high earners tend to meet, marry and do business with people just like themselves, and live in towns where things that matter to the affluent -- such as good schools -- are priorities. Less-educated lower earners, meanwhile, have less access to the kinds of influences that might help them, or their kids, climb the social ladder. Murray's research is controversial, but it does seem self-evident that exposure to successful people is more helpful than exposure to strugglers.
Technology threatens your livelihood. One bright spot in the economy is the tech sector, with companies like Apple, Facebook and Google adding jobs, creating new markets and racking up profits. But technology, of course, can upend and transform old industries -- as it has already done with music, travel and publishing and may soon do with entertainment, law, accounting and even medicine.
The U.S. manufacturing sector, for example, seems to be poised for an impressive revival, as improved costs, favorable currency rates and other factors lure many companies back to U.S. factories. But modern plants are no longer filled with assembly-line workers handling every small task. They're high-tech marvels that rely heavily on specialized equipment and small numbers of well-trained workers with the skills to operate it. Just about everybody in this economy should be looking around the corner to see how technology is likely to change the way they earn a living -- or make it obsolete.
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You're flying solo. Murray and others have highlighted the difficulties that single parents face keeping up with their kids' education, along with their own job demands and career opportunities, as well as the need for social involvement. Women have made impressive economic strides over the past 30 years that have left them far less dependent on men. But one consequence of that may be more economic isolation, especially for lower-earning women.
You're too dependent on government. More than half of U.S. residents depend on government for a major part of their income, according to economist Gary Shilling. That ought to be terrifying, because it is a virtual certainty that government spending has to shrink, and taxes must rise, to keep the nation from going broke. The pain of spending cuts will be spread among government workers (including teachers and others employed by local governments), Medicare and Social Security recipients, soldiers, pensioners and many contractors whose work is funded by the government. Most working people, meanwhile, will see their taxes rise. For anybody living on the edge, that's a ticking time bomb. But at least you know it's going to blow.
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It angers me so badly that people who choose to not work have a bigger grocery budget than my husband and I who both work full time jobs.
I think they should have life sustaining medical treatment and be given actual food staples....not a pre-loaded debit card.
5 more signs...
If the Spagettios you're eating are last night's leftovers, you may be falling behind.
If you applied for a loan to pay the paperboy, you may be falling behind.
If you try to get the girl scout at the door to buy YOUR cookies, you may be falling behind.
If you married your cousin to get on their healthcare, you may be falling behind.
And, lastly, if you need to read an article to tell you you may be falling behind... you're falling behind.
You don't associate with influential people.
Nuts! I knew I shouldn't have turned down that invitation to tea and crumpets with the Koch brothers!
Now I'm totally screwed...
5 more warning signs...
If you can't decide to buy Meow Mix or Kibbles-n-Bits... and you don't own a cat, you may be falling behind.
If you're forced to share your sister's clothes... and you're her brother, you may be falling behind.
If you spent your honeymoon in the Riviera... your father's Buick Riviera, you may be falling behind.
If you envy your dog because it has a nicer coat than you, you may be falling behind.
If you're tired of watching all of the sex & violence... and you don't own a t.v., you may be falling behind.
I dont care how many "Breaks" you give these big companies..they are not obligated to create more jobs if we make it easier on them ?...and one point nobody wants to talk about is the fact that we can never create enough jobs for everybody because there are simply too many people in this world and automation has taken millions of jobs that used to be done by hand.
Population control is going to be the wave of the future
(OK RT wing Cristians and evangelical Nut jobs, start cying)
Falling behind ? Say it isn't true ! Is the Present Occupant of the White House, Falling Behind ?
Hey Obumma! what happened to the PROMISE that you will be A ONE TERM President if the Unemployement rate stays at 8 %? L I A R !!!
The Government hasn't Passed a BUDGET in almost four years, so why should we worry. If the Idiot in Charge can spend money like a Drunken Sailor ( Sorry Vets I can't use the Other name)
Then why can't we? These Bums can't get their fiscal house in order so what do they do? Spread the TAX burden amongst those who least can afford to get hit with it! Class warfare is commimg !
Get ready to Take from the Rich to Give to the GOVERNMENT? Lock and Load the ILLEGALS ARE COMMING !
This is what went on prior to the 1929 crash. By the way....I hope you all don't believe the nonsense stories about the wealthy jumping out of buildings on wall street after the '29 crash. That was more propaganda put out by the newspapers owned by guess who. The wealthy were looking down their noses at the people on line for soup and thinking......See...We of superior intellect are doing OK.
I think the wealthy better hope there's no God.
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