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  1. #91
    pathwise dependent FDG's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by oberon View Post
    In other parts of the world this is true. I don't think it's the primary controlling factor in the US... or maybe it is, but avenues exist by which it can be overcome.
    I've studied the matter quite extensively (at university), the US acted as reference point for most discussions / papers / theories. Generally, a three-variable model can be constructed, composed by skill, wealth and income. Most studies find that

    1) Skill is a strong predictor of working income.
    2) Skill is a strong predictor of wealth for low-to-medium levels of wealth, but becomes less and less significant as we move towards higher levels of wealth.
    3) Parents' wealth, controlling for skill (so, excluding its effect from the analysis), is not a strong predictor of working income, but a really strong predictor of financial income (rather obvious).
    4) Income, controlling for parents' wealth, is a strong predictor of wealth.
    5) Parents' wealth, controlling for skill, is the single strongest predictor of wealth.

    Usually these studies conclude that a western-civilization citizen born poor but with high levels of skill can "easily" reach a medium-to-high level of income, yet will difficulty reach a high level of wealth, but will still "easily" reach a level of wealth higher than his parents'.
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  2. #92
    ^He pronks, too! Magic Poriferan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by oberon View Post
    Or it means that people who know how to make and keep money tend to have children who know how to make and keep money... not a major stretch, your assertion notwithstanding.
    Yeah. First of all, the skills and personality traits of parents do not pass to children with such consistency.

    Second of all, there are a bunch of better explanations.

    A person that's born poor is immediately born into a place of less opportunity. Aside from the fact that being able to throw cash around itself creates opportunities, you have to consider that the poor will often be born in depressed areas, with less access to tools for success, and more health and safety hazards. Since your school is based on your district, and they are funded by property taxes, that's a really big issue. Being poor itself works against getting the education you are advocating.

    Then there's the fact that rich people typically know rich people, and poor people typically know poor people, with a relatively small degree of variation. So social networking for those born rich will always be more valuable than for those born poor. This can also be connected into the theory of cultural barriers, which is that the class actually end up developing different cultures that makes it even harder for a poor person to transition into a wealth. Who associates with who is itself obviously a major part of that.

    Then you have to consider that a disproportionate percentage of the poor are black or latino. It is, perhaps, not as bad now as it had been, but there is a long history of and still presently are issues of prejudice and discrimination that disadvantage even people from the middle class. But that discrimination is part of what makes so many of these people poor, instead of middle-class, and when it's compounded with the other factors of poverty it almost becomes a Gordian knot.

    And that was all just to cover how much of a factor being born into an income bracket is.

    That either didn't cover or only vaguely touched on the facts that:

    Demographic discrimination will continue to affect your odds long after you are born and even if you weren't born in the most disadvantageous position.

    Social networking will also affect your odds for the rest of your life. If you are lucky enough to make good with a rich family (maybe by marriage) a while after your youth, you could claim your way into without having to demonstrate much of any competence.

    Then we have the issue of dubious merit. Maybe you do have a skill which you used to achieve your wealth, but maybe it's one that doesn't serve much of a function than getting what you want. For example. people with no empathy, sympathy, or guilt, have an advantage over those who do, because their self-serving calculations are less restrained. Or how about a person who is all style and no substance? Maybe they have charm and charisma that allows them to manipulate people, or just makes them inherently favored, but really no useful skills. Or how about someone that is incredibly good at lying and hiding? etc...

    And there is plenty of environmental luck after one's birth. First of all, practically everyone that made it big in the entertainment business should consider themselves lucky. Actors, writers, musicians, athletes, are all lucky. Secondly, business people don't really know that much. Successful investors have a huge element of luck going for them. They stumble into the right place at the right time. So do a lot of career politicians, many of whom get elected in on current hot-button issues, paradigm shifts, or incidental revelations about their opponents that they could not possibly have predicted. I know a family that has wealth almost solely because an earlier generation decided to keep their money hidden in their house, instead of a bank, when the great depression rolled along.

    And I'm still not done. There's good reason I said this:

    Because that would either mean everyone attains the careers that are currently rewarded with high profit, which would leave massive, unworkable holes in the country's workforce, or it would mean we'd have to start giving huge profit rewards to all the careers/professions/jobs that are currently very lowly paid. It could also be a mixture of the two.
    Our system of wealth is partly based on an income hierarchy regarding careers/professions. As hierarchies do, it narrows out as it approaches the top. There was recently a thread made listing the best paying college degrees. What were they? Well, look at the top 10.

    Petroleum engineering $93,000 $157,000
    Aerospace engineering $59,400 $108,000
    Chemical engineering $64,800 $108,000
    Electrical engineering $60,800 $104,000
    Nuclear engineering $63,900 $104,000
    Applied mathematics $56,400 $101,000
    Biomedical engineering $54,800 $101,000
    Physics $50,700 $99,600
    Computer engineering $61,200 $87,700
    Economics $48,800 $97,800


    Obviously, poor people, no matter how skilled, are not going to work their way to wealth simply by getting these careers, even though these are currently among the highest paying. Because, if for no other reason, everyone flooding to become, say, an aerospace engineer, would quickly result in more job-seeking aerospace engineers than anyone really feels like paying.

    There are far more poor people than rich people, and this is something that is practically built into the system. The most profitable positions (be they professional, or social positions) are proportionately exclusive. No amount of skill can get all the poor people to that level or even close to it, because that requires the structure to become top heavy instead of bottom heavy, or most ideally, completely flat. Why don't you do the thinking from here, and come up with reasons that wouldn't happen?

    Of course, those high paying careers don't even begin to reflect the income of the wealthiest Americans. But sadly, the wealthiest Americans have less determinable careers or functions to society.

    By the way; wealth is closer to a zero-sum game than you think. Not because of finite resources, but because of currency. Monetary wealth is inherently a zero-sum game, and we have pegged the exchange and development of all real wealth to monetary wealth. There-in lays the problem. Pretty much the only thing that keeps it from completely being a zero-sum game is technological advancement, but the relationship between that and wealth is more complicated than I find most free-markets types want to think. (I actually gave a much more detailed explanation of all of this on the forum, but I think that was years ago and would be pressed to dig it up again.)

    So, we've got a real layer cake of problems for your belief here. Not that I needed to prove this to myself. One doesn't have to study social sciences much to figure this out. My closing statement is that the collective works of sociology, anthropology, and psychology over the decades have come very close to saying your hypothesis is scientifically wrong.

    Where can one go from there?
    Go to sleep, iguana.


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  3. #93
    Oberon
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    Quote Originally Posted by Magic Poriferan View Post
    Where can one go from there?
    Propose a means of properly fixing poverty once and for all.

  4. #94
    Senior Member LeafAndSky's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by oberon View Post
    I don't think the thread has yet addressed exactly what we're talking about when we use the term "poverty."

    Is it the skeletal African kid with the distended belly and the fly on his lip?

    Is it the single mom with four kids living in a trailer in the US on $10K a year?

    Is it the two-parent, two-income family in a working-class neighborhood who can't afford to get the transmission work done on their beat-up car?

    Let's determine exactly what we're trying to fix before we decide how to fix it.
    ^
    Good point.

    I grew up officially "poverty level." My sibling and I never knew this until much later in our adult lives. We had a happy rural childhood. As an adult I prefer simplicity and owning little. Some kinds of 'poverty' can create or enable happiness.

  5. #95
    ^He pronks, too! Magic Poriferan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by oberon View Post
    Propose a means of properly fixing poverty once and for all.
    I do not have the capacity to do so at this time.

    While that order has something to do with the OP of this thread, it seems a little out of left field in context of the chain of conversation that it was in response to.
    Go to sleep, iguana.


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  6. #96
    Oberon
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    Quote Originally Posted by Magic Poriferan View Post
    I do not have the capacity to do so at this time.

    While that order has something to do with the OP of this thread, it seems a little out of left field in context of the chain of conversation that it was in response to.
    There's a reason for that, which is that I don't want to fight with you. You seem to have thought about the problem a good deal, which is why I thought you might have worked out some answers.

  7. #97
    Don't Judge Me! Haphazard's Avatar
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    I have to say, I think that a lot of high-paying careers involve math for a reason...
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  8. #98
    Glowy Goopy Goodness The_Liquid_Laser's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by oberon View Post
    I don't think the thread has yet addressed exactly what we're talking about when we use the term "poverty."

    Is it the skeletal African kid with the distended belly and the fly on his lip?

    Is it the single mom with four kids living in a trailer in the US on $10K a year?

    Is it the two-parent, two-income family in a working-class neighborhood who can't afford to get the transmission work done on their beat-up car?

    Let's determine exactly what we're trying to fix before we decide how to fix it.
    I haven't really posted in this thread, because this was mostly my thought. Isn't poverty a moving target? It is if you always define it as the bottom x%, because there will always be people at the bottom no matter how much the standard of living improves for the people at the bottom.

    I think if I were to define being out of poverty it would be to have all basic needs met while working a reasonable amount of time (the specifics depend on the context of the culture you're in). So in the US it would mean that a family is out of poverty if the adults in the family can choose to work less than an average of 45 hours a week while being able to afford food, water, shelter, clothing, energy, transportation, and healthcare for all family members and sufficient education for children to prepare them to survive in society.

    What percentage of Americans are out of povery by that definition and what percentage are in poverty?
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  9. #99
    Senior Member Beargryllz's Avatar
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    I too love how the bottom will always exist. Today's target may be healthcare, next may be the 20 hour work week, but you're definitely right both in that the standards change and that there will always be a losing end. I do know that it is nearly impossible to starve in America, what with the pound of spaghetti costing 99 pennies at my local grocer. We simply have to keep setting new goals I guess. I imagine that 50 years from now the losing end will be miles ahead of today's upper end, but I could be wrong.

  10. #100
    Senior Member cafe's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Beargryllz View Post
    I too love how the bottom will always exist. Today's target may be healthcare, next may be the 20 hour work week, but you're definitely right both in that the standards change and that there will always be a losing end. I do know that it is nearly impossible to starve in America, what with the pound of spaghetti costing 99 pennies at my local grocer. We simply have to keep setting new goals I guess. I imagine that 50 years from now the losing end will be miles ahead of today's upper end, but I could be wrong.
    The 99 cent spaghetti is how we get so many fat sick poor people in the US. If I'm not mistaken, grains are often government subsidized. That makes them cheap and when money is tight, that's what people eat. Not terribly nutritious.

    As far as how things will look in fifty years, to my knowledge, cost of living in the US has been rising, while wages have not and as far as I know, food and fuel are often not included in cost of living calculations. For poorer families, those expenses are some of their biggest ones.

    If you were to take the USDA food pyramid and figure up how much it would cost to feed a family of four in a way that reflects those standards with a reasonable amount of variety, it would be more reflective of actual food costs than the price of a pack of a subsidized product of minimum nutritional value. Fuel can also be more expensive for the poor because they often live in substandard (often drafty and poorly insulated) housing and drive older vehicles -- many places do not have good public transportation systems or those systems are too expensive to use.

    The loss of manufacturing jobs has hit the working class very hard and so far, nothing appears to be really making up for that loss. The gap between the top and bottom incomes has been widening for a couple of decades. If the trend continues, we're going to look a lot more like a third world country than we do now. I don't think that's really a good thing.
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