It should come as little surprise that in the heart of America’s South where the marriage of free markets and “traditional values” is celebrated by the routine casting of votes for red-state Tea Party style Republicans each election cycle, that the American dream is shown to be at its weakest.
In a series of studies performed by Equality-of-Opportunity.org, a site run by a collection of leading Harvard and Berkeley economists dedicated to studying economic mobility, Southern red-states consistently ranked at the bottom in regards to opportunity for those born in one economic class to elevate themselves out of poverty or into wealth. The findings come as little surprise to labor economists and social justice advocates, who have long held that pro-corporate, anti-union economic policies lead not to prosperity, but social stratification and the enshrining of an economic aristocracy.
Of the bottom 21 cities in the ranking (those in which economic and social mobility are the lowest,) all but three were located in the South, with the odds of a child born in poverty in those areas somehow working/raising themselves out of their condition, being generally anywhere between 2.6% and 6.7%. As only a slight departure from the old days of institutionalized slavery, this modern top-down social structure has in many ways mimicked the bad-old-days of plantation owners and field hands by way of its consistently anti-union, anti-worker, anti-minority sentiments.
The data and its findings serve as something of a rebuke to the “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” rhetoric espoused by the pro-market conservative set, who’ve found a ready home in Old Dixie, especially in recent decades. Built, as many feel, on the remaining foundations left over from the old days of slavery and agricultural aristocracies, the new Southern economic models commonly promote themselves as being “meritocracies,” stating in a Calvinist sort of way, that those who are wealthy and those who are poor, should remain in their class stations according to their own works and efforts. Yet with economic wealth and political power remaining largely in the same hands they have always been in and the divides between ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’ growing wider, the realities of policy effects and institutional classism are becoming harder and harder to ignore.
Some are hopeful that this data and the growing awareness of class and economic divisions, may help to spur a change towards more fair and populist policies. However with the starkly established and often unassailable lines between rich and poor maintaining themselves over the generations and with increasingly pro-corporate southern Republicans running for and being elected to office, despite their vocal support for the continuation of such policies (those being low regulation, weak labor protection laws, right-to-work legislation and the closer-than-average ties between major industry and elected officials), the likelihood of this near-feudal American Southern traditional economy seeing any change at state levels remains highly unlikely.