Alberto Alesina, Stefanie Stantcheva, Edoardo Teso, 21 June 2017

Americans are generally thought to view the economic system as fair and see wealth as a reward for ability and effort, while Europeans tend to believe that the economic system is unfair, and that wealth is the result of circumstances. This column tests this using new evidence on beliefs about intergenerational mobility in four European countries and the US, and confirms that Europeans do indeed tend to be overly pessimistic about moving up the social ladder compared to reality, while Americans are overly optimistic. These perceptions have important implications for how redistribution and equal opportunity policies will be received.

Raj Chetty, David Grusky, Maximilian Hell, Nathaniel Hendren, Robert Manduca, Jimmy Narang, 05 May 2017

One of the defining features of the ‘American Dream’ is the ideal that children have a higher standard of living than their parents. This column examines rates of ‘absolute income mobility’ – the fraction of children who earn more than their parents – to assess whether the US is living up to this ideal. Rates of absolute mobility have fallen from approximately 90% for children born in 1940 to 50% for children born in the 1980s. Most of this decline is driven by the more unequal distribution of economic growth rather than the slowdown in aggregate growth rates.

Richard Evans, Laurence Kotlikoff, Kerk Phillips, 04 May 2012

The sustainability of government finances is very much the topic of the day. But the issue poses serious questions for the future, particularly how well off today’s younger generations will be compared with their parents. This column argues that the Ponzi scheme being played by the US government amounts to "fiscal child abuse" and is close to game over. For today's children the American dream will be just that – a dream.