Social Mobility, Inequality and the Gospel

I read an interesting article in the Economist last night, “Social mobility and inequality, Upper Bound”, (MTR Language Arts Wall: Yes. You underline titles of magazines, newspapers, books, and movies. The titles of parts inside them, such as chapters or articles, are put in quotes [“…”].)

My takeaways (as they apply to Cultural Maturity 1.0 Urban Context)

Statistics of Interest:
* Real income for men in their 30’s has dropped 12% over the last generation.
* There has been a 20% increase in income inequality over the past 40+ years
* The top 10% of income earners took home 50% of all income earned in 2008 (which is a larger proportion than the wealthy earned in1928, the year before the Great Crash)

The article says the primary reason for this inequality of income (and therefore the difficulty of mobility out of poverty) is due to the advancement of technology that has lessened the need for middle-skilled workers… driving down both employment opportunities and wages.

What to do?
The Economist mentions two key social changes that most positively impact upward social movement as (1) Earning a college degree, and (2) Marrying before having children. Finally, the author comments that the “next step” is that America should focus on investing in the “productivity of the young”.

1. I can think of no better way to “invest in the productivity of the young” than by being a fantastic teacher. You have chosen a field (teaching) of great importance and leverage… that is, if you happen to care about justice, impacting the next generation, not wasting your life, being a servant and not a consumer and ultimately glorifying God by your motivations of giving Him the things He loves.

2. I wanted you to be reminded and equipped with “data” that can inform your casual conversations with students. Knowing some key issues that are the real leverage points (actions that can most “make” or “break” a life) for life are important for a culturally mature teacher. Encouraging and equipping students to have the opportunity to graduate from college and the vision to desire marriage before becoming a parent are important conversations to have.

I know you know these things… I just wanted you to know that Main Street agrees.

Then, shortly after reading this article, we had dinner as a family. We’re reading Acts at the dinner table and we came to this last night: “Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and sign, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.” (Acts 2:22-24)

And it occurred to me…. there is another kind of “upper bound-ness”, another kind of “upward social mobility”. First, there is a real sense of physical and felt needs that come with poverty and a lack of technological skills. These needs provide a real sense of oppression. And we are to use our lives to enter into places that offer us the ability to provide opportunities and relief. This is a God-given and God-demonstrated mandate (is that not what He did for us). Helping people rise above suffering is very much a proclamation of the gospel.

Yet there is another sense of “upper bound-ness” and upward mobility. This sense is the reality of an upward mobility that not suffering nor poverty nor lack of technological skills nor the lack of a college degree can prevent. It is the very real promise that through Jesus Christ – raised from the dead – nothing, no sense of poverty… even the extreme poverty of death itself… can keep us down. For through Christ, not even death can keep its hold on us.

Christ, alone, is the ultimate upwardly socially mobile answer. And because of that, we personally have no need to fight for own upward social mobility – it has been accomplished for us. And because of Christ, there is hope – even for the one who might never happen to reach the upward bound-ness of the American dream. And with Hope, no one is truly in poverty.