On Thursday, Sept. 17, sociologist David Grusky delivered a lecture entitled ‘The Death of the American Dream?’ to a full audience in the Hindle Auditorium as part of the Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholars program.
Grusky, director of Stanford’s Center on Poverty and Inequality, presented evidence from his recent study to reveal how America’s increasing need to “buy opportunity” hinders economic mobility. The study used tax data to track Intergenerational Elasticity (IGE), or the percent change in a child’s earnings given a one percent increase in his or her parents’ earnings.
The results of Grusky’s study showed a discrepancy in income elasticity not only between classes but also between genders. The average IGE of tenth percentile was .39 for women and .41 for men, while the average IGE of the ninetieth percentile was .66 for women and .68 for men.
Grusky argues that the overall trend is due to the increased spending power of wealthy parents who can pay to ensure opportunities that low-income children cannot access. The gender discrepancy was more complicated, accounting for factors such as earnings versus income and marriage.
Grusky concluded by taking questions from the audience. In response to a question about the viability of integrating economically segregated schools, Grusky said that students would likely “rise to the occasion.”
At the reception following the event, Karl Rivera ’16 said he was surprised that Grusky’s response “made no address to the non-economic issues of integration.” Sarah Hilton ’16 described the lecture as “interesting, especially in light of the upcoming elections.”
The overall turnout of Grusky’s lecture was overwhelmingly positive. While on campus, Grusky also held open office hours on Friday and led a workshop on careers in social justice. Sociology Professor Karen McCormack, who invited Grusky to speak in her course, ‘How Organizations Work’, earlier in the week, said of the event: “Hindle was full, the students were energized and asked questions – an enthusiastic response.”