An American born into poverty is increasingly unlikely to be able to move up and out. The American Dream while did happen to a few famous individuals like Andrew Carnegie, the scenario was actually unlikely. A number of historical studies have shown that the ranks of the upper middle class to rich -- those who benefitted from the booming economy of the Gilded Age -- were drawn from members of their own class, and their own ethnic group. The odds on a worker or farmer or an immigrant breaking in were slim indeed. America is not the land of opportunity for most folk. Most peoples' destinies are determined by birth.
Many children's fates are set before they even start school. A Stanford University study last year shed light on what is sometimes call the achievement gap. The authors say, "the income achievement gap is large when children enter kindergarten and does not appear to grow (or narrow) appreciably as children progress through school."
If you are born into poverty you tend to stay there, whereas if you are born into affluence you tend to continue to live in affluence. "About 62 percent of Americans raised in the top fifth of incomes stay in the top two-fifths... Similarly, 65 percent born in the bottom fifth stay in the bottom two-fifths." a New York Times article reported
About one third of New York City residents nearing retirement age won’t be able to quit or will have to rely entirely on Social Security because they have less than $10,000 in savings. It’s going to mean a generation of retirees will do worse than their parents and grandparents. They face downward mobility.
Romney, the presidential candidate, was raised in privilege - his father was an automobile executive who resigned his CEO position to run for governor of Michigan. The Mitt Romney's of the capitalist world can bring in $20 million a year by not having a job and doing nothing.