- Shopping Bag ( 0 items )
The American dream—rising socially to achieve success and prosperity—seems alive and well despite the economy. Clark (economics, Univ. of California, Davis; A Farewell to Alms) concedes the popular belief that a good society is marked by high rates of social mobility. But his provocative thesis is that social mobility, in the United States and elsewhere, happens far more slowly than existing studies indicate, because those investigations focus on just one aspect of status (e.g., income or occupation). Clark settled on surnames as the best way to track the rich and poor in various societies. He uses several measures to determine mobility, including occupation, education, income, and wealth. The author's most vexing claim is that social status is inherited in much the same way as biological traits: it's in the genes. To the extent that both rich and poor groups will regress to the social mean over a period of hundreds of years, Clark sees society as ultimately egalitarian. But, oddly enough, because of the genetic component, it's the intermarriage between groups that is the great equalizer. Clark's analysis covers a number of different countries and eras (e.g., modern Sweden and China, medieval England), and various coauthors contribute data. VERDICT No doubt this book will be as controversial as its thesis is thought-provoking. The prose can get a little dense with statistics,but the travels across continents and through time are intriguing enough to make this title worth reading. Buy for academic sociology and economics collections.—Carol Elsen, Univ. of Wisconsin-Whitewater Libs.