Chuck Collins: Want the American Dream? Get Rich Parents or Move to Canada!
The Two 21 year old college students sit down in a coffee shop to study for an upcoming test. Behind the counter, a barista whips up their double shot lattes. In the back kitchen, another young adult washes the dishes and empties the trash. These four young adults have a lot in common. They are the same age and race, each has two parents, and all grew up in the same metropolitan area. They were all strong students in their respective high schools. But as they enter their third decade, their work futures and life trajectories are radically different, and largely determined at this point. The culprit is the growing role of inherited advantage, as affluent families make investments that give their children a leg up. Combined with the 2008 economic meltdown and budget cuts in public investments that foster opportunity, we are witnessing accelerating advantages for the wealthy and compounding disadvantages for everyone else. One of the college students, Miranda, will graduate without any student loan debt, and will have completed three summers of unpaid internships at businesses that will advance her career path. Her parents stand ready to subsidize her lodging with a security deposit and co-signed apartment lease, and will give her a no interest loan to buy a car. They also have a network of family and professional contacts that can help her. While she waits for a job with benefits, she will remain on her parents' health insurance. Ten years later, Miranda will have a high paying job, be engaged to another professional, and will buy a home in a neighborhood with other college educated professionals, a property that will steadily appreciate over time because of its location. The parental down payment assistance program will subsidize the purchase. The other collegiate, Marcus, will graduate with more than $55,000 in college debt, a maxed out credit card, and an extensive resume of part time food service jobs that he has taken to pay for school, both during summers and while in college, reducing the hours he can study. Though he will obtain a degree, he will graduate with almost no work experience in his field of study, lose his health insurance, and begin working two part time jobs to pay back his student loans and to afford rent in a shared apartment. Ten years later, Marcus will still be working in low paying jobs and renting an apartment.