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Is the upper middle class really hoarding the American Dream?

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To hear Richard Reeves tell it, the upper middle class is fast becoming the bane of American society. Its members have entrenched themselves just below the top 1 percent and protect their privileged position through public policy and private behavior. Americans cherish the belief that they live in a mobile society, where hard work and imagination are rewarded. The upper middle class is destroying this faith, because it’s impeding poorer Americans from getting ahead.

That conclusion is dead wrong, but it contains just enough truth to seem plausible. We need to separate fact from fiction.

Reeves, a scholar at the Brookings Institution, makes his case in a new book titled “Dream Hoarders,” as in the American Dream. The hoarding refers to all the economic opportunities that the upper middle class is allegedly manipulating for itself. Zoning restrictions segregate it into economically homogeneous neighborhoods, with the best schools. This provides an advantage in getting into selective colleges, leading to better internships and jobs.

All this is self-perpetuating, Reeves says. Class structure is becoming frozen. Downward mobility from the top is limited. Upper-middle-class parents are obsessed with supporting their children, from helping with homework to teaching bike-riding. The story seems so compelling that it could become conventional wisdom. Parents are destiny. Just recently, David........

© Washington Post