I quote from a review in The Economist of The Price of Inequality: How Today’s Divided Society Endangers our Future by Joseph Stiglitz.
(T)hree-quarters of Danes born in the lowest-earning 20% of the population escape their plight in adulthood. Seven out of ten poor children in supposedly class-ridden Britain achieve the same feat. But fewer than six in ten Americans.
Similarly, with rags-to-riches stories. It is far less common for Americans from the bottom 20% in childhood to move into the top 20% in adulthood than it is in Denmark or in Britain. On the whole, America’s wealthy prosper while the average citizen struggles; the richest 1% of Americans gained 93% of the additional income created in 2010. The pay workers get has failed to move in line with productivity in the past 30 years. But Americans have yet to realise the extent of this tectonic shift. In a survey conducted in 2011 the average respondent thought that the richest fifth of the population had 60% of the wealth, not 85% as is the case. The respondents’ ideal income distribution would be for the top quintile to have just 30% of the wealth.