Reposted from Quartz:
The US became increasingly unequal in decades ahead of the Civil War in the 1860s. But at the dawn of the the 20th century it remained more egalitarian than European nations like Britain and France. Inequality rose sharply in during the Jazz Age, and collapsed in the Great Depression, staying pretty much stable until the early 1980s. Since then American inequality has climbed sharply—so much so that the US is now a more unequal society than Europe was during the last days of aristocracy ahead of World War I, according to French economist Thomas Piketty in his massive study of the topic, Capital in the Twenty-First Century.
Not only is the US now less equal than Europe, it’s less mobile than many European countries. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Americans had a much easier time rising above the station into which they were born than their counterparts in Britain, according to economic historian Joseph Ferrie. Now, a poor Moroccan kid in France is much more likely to move into the middle class than a child born into a poor family in Mississippi. (The US and Britain are usually seen as having the lowest intergenerational social mobility of the countries of Europe and North America. That means our ultimate earnings are now heavily correlated with those of our parents. Here’s another study on the topic.)
Few would argue that this is a healthy development. And almost all would agree that if a change is going to be made, it must be driven in part by the American education system. But here’s the catch: the American education system is itself only an offshoot of an increasingly class-driven society.