Economic mobility has typically been the antidote to a higher level of income inequality in America than in other developed nations. In other words, Americans have typically tolerated bigger gaps because the rich, the poor, and everybody in between believed that hard work and innovation can rapidly springboard them into a higher income bracket.

That was probably true for many years following the Great Depression, but these days, the odds of an ambitious young bootstrapper rising from humble origins are better in many other countries than they are in the United States. The EPI researchers cite data from other economists showing that the United States, for instance, only ranks 13th out of 17 developed nations by one measure of economic mobility. Young Americans enjoy better economic mobility than their counterparts in Slovenia, Chile, Italy and the U.K. But young workers have a better chance of moving up in 12 other countries, including supposedly socialist states like Sweden and Denmark, along with France, Spain, Germany, Australia and Canada.

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