Mischaracterizing inequality is clouding the important debate about upward mobility

by Ryan Streeter on February 6, 2014. Follow Ryan on Twitter.

Scott Winship has been arguing for awhile that inequality claims have been blown out of proportion and are thereby skewing our public debate about low-income families.

With Donald Schneider he has a useful post at e21 that explains why the research used by the Obama administration to talk about inequality is flawed (essentially, the research Obama’s argument is based on bakes inequality into the measure of mobility).

It’s important to get the data right, they argue, because it directly affects how productive our public policy debate about solutions will be:

[M]obility has been stable and that there is little robust correlation between inequality and mobility levels across geographic areas. We argue that instead of trying to construct an unsupportable case that mobility is falling and that inequality is to blame, Democrats should simply point to the insufficiently high mobility levels experienced by poor children. A growing number of Republicans share concern over this problem, and a productive policy debate could ensue on these terms.