Social Mobility Memos

Opportunity: It Takes a Lifetime

Kerry Searle Grannis and Richard V. Reeves

Horatio Alger is the greatest champion of social mobility in the public imagination. His tales of young men (and they were men) born poor, but overcoming adversity through hard work and extraordinary character, have influenced ideas about the American Dream for more than a century. Monday marks Alger’s 182nd birthday: not coincidentally, that’s the date of our first annual Social Mobility Summit.

We will hear keynote speeches from Rep. Paul Ryan and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand about their visions for opportunity (you can register for the live webcasts here). But during the rest of the day, we’re convening a series of invitation-only session with leading practitioners and academics to generate real policy solutions to help close the opportunity gap. (Look out on this blog for some products of these labors; and sign up for our regular updates.)

Every Stage Matters

Improving intergenerational mobility is necessarily a lifetime’s work. In earlier work, CCF has identified five key transition stages across the lifecycle that are critical for promoting mobility and opportunity. The working sessions at the Summit will reflect this by focusing on each critical life stage:

The opportunity gap is really a series of gaps that start early and widen over time. No single program at any one life stage offers a solution: it will take many programs and changes in life courses at many stages. The good news is that, as our work has shown, multiple programs—each with modest but meaningful effects—together can make a real difference.