Americans love equality of opportunity. The idea that, if you work hard and play by the rules, you can end up better than you, is pretty deeply embedded in the national psyche. It’s what the American dream’s all about.
And it doesn’t apply if you’re black. Patrick Sharkey, a sociologist at NYU, has been studying trends and causes of social mobility, and finds that white children born into the bottom 20 percent of the income distribution are twice as likely to move up to the top 80 percent as black kids. Even worse, 78 percent of black kids born into the top three fifths of the income distribution fall below it as adults. Social mobility goes *backwards*. By comparison, only 43 percent of white kids fall back that much.