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The ‘Great Gatsby’ Curve: Perceptions of Economic Mobility are Caused by Perceptions of Inequality

Illustration of older men and women dancing in a line

In 1931, James Truslow Adams defined the American dream as the idea that “each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position.” At present, however, social mobility is remarkably stagnant, with one’s circumstances of birth having a large effect on later social class. Despite this fact, many people overestimate social mobility.