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  • Jeffrey Goldfarb

The Land of Opportunity?

America | Poverty | Education | Middle Class | Buffalo, NY | B Corp

America’s tagline throughout history has always been “The Land of Opportunity,” and though that saying has drawn some questions due to recent political decisions, it still echoes as a strong call to arms for many Americans eager to preach about the greatness of their country. The thing is, for those who can benefit from all America has to offer (citizens and those legally working on visas) this really is a land where one can make their own destiny. Though a little dated, the Brookings Institute laid out three simple rules for American Teenagers to follow, which would almost guarantee they avoid an impoverished life. These three tips were meant to be directed towards youth from low income families who do not have the same opportunities as others. For reference all the following information relating to the study, either directly quoted or paraphrased can be found on this link: https://www.brookings.edu/opinions/three-simple-rules-poor-teens-should-follow-to-join-the-middle-class/

The article makes it clear from the very beginning there is an education gap, and those currently struggling—those coming from families in the lowest earning percentages, do not have the chance to learn these basic life lessons and often fall into a life style that perpetuates their struggle, not because they want to but because it’s either the only reality they know, or because it’s the only opportunity they see that can offer a tangible advancement to their current living situation.

However, based on the research done by the Brookings Institute they found that no matter what a person’s background is the following three rules can greatly reduce their chances of living in poverty, and possibly enter the middle class, thus setting their future children up to continue climbing the socioeconomic ladder. The three rules are

  1. Finish high school

  2. Find a full time job (any full time job)

  3. Wait until you’re at least 21 to get married and have children[1]

That’s it, and of the research conducted by the Institute “American adults who followed these three simple rules, only about 2 percent are in poverty and nearly 75 percent have joined the middle class (defined as earning around $55,000 or more per year).”

Now it would be foolish to pass blame or judgement on those living in poverty by assuming they are living in their situations because they did not follow these rules, but it would also be a mistake to ignore the data. One of the greatest statistical advantages a child can have is coming from a two parent home; this has nothing to do with who parents are personally and everything to do with two full time incomes.[2] Children coming from a two parent home are more likely to go to college, and earn more money later in life. In other words, children coming from two parent homes are more likely to be naturally guided towards following these three rules. Again, this is not to say a person coming from a single parent home cannot succeed, they are just put at a statistical disadvantage.


The information has been obtained from sources considered to be reliable, but we do not guarantee that the foregoing material is accurate or complete. Any opinions are those of Jeffrey Goldfarb and not necessarily those of Raymond James.

[1] https://www.brookings.edu/opinions/three-simple-rules-poor-teens-should-follow-to-join-the-middle-class/

[2] http://www.businessinsider.com/parents-determine-child-success-income-inequality-2014-1

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