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Social Mobility Memos

The Mobility Mentality: Our Response to Third Way’s Take on Character

Richard V. Reeves and Kimberly Howard

We need more than conventional economic policies to help those stuck at the bottom of the income ladder work their way up, argues the Third Way report released Monday. Economic policies—like increasing the Earned Income Tax Credit or access to health care—are important but not sufficient. Someone born in the bottom income quintile has about the same chance of making it out of the bottom quintile as they did 50 years ago.

So what’s missing? The “mobility mentality”:

  • Growth Mindset: the belief that intelligence and ability are malleable, not fixed
  • Grit: the persistence and resilience needed to climb the ladder

The report, which is worth reading in whole, describes this mobility mentality and outlines eight suggestions for how government can promote and reward the fostering of a mobility mentality. For example, the authors suggest more home visiting programs that teach parents to model the growth mindset and even a “BoomerCorps” in which retiree volunteers encourage low-income families to take up the growth mindset and act as a support network for low-income families. Many of the suggestions are actually recommendations that the government itself should adopt a mobility mindset, such as by providing stronger chances for low-income students to make it to college or better-assisted re-entry into society for individuals leaving prison.

A few of our reactions: