Ensuring equal chances for all to succeed is a value Americans have long embraced. They are more likely than other nationalities to believe in the importance of talent and effort in shaping a persons life prospects. They are also more likely to reject social class as an acceptable determinant of whether someone succeeds or fails. Given such a strong consensus on the goal of equal opportunity, the American public has paid remarkably little attention to how close our society is to achieving it. In the hope of beginning to fill this gap, this brief looks at how much circumstances of birth affect an individual's chances of success in todays America.
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