The Opportunity Gap and How It's Hurting "Our Kids"

Jul 9, 2015

The opportunity for prosperity and success in America is in crisis, according to public policy expert Robert Putnam.

"Less able kids from rich backgrounds are more likely to graduate from college than the most able poor kids, and that directly violates the idea of meritocracy." says Putnam.

On this edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with Putnam about his latest book, Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis, where the diminishing life chances of lower class families are put into sharp contrast with the expanding resources of the upper class.

"Over the last 30 or 40 years all across America, the meaning of ‘our kids’ has shriveled," he says. "Nowadays when people talk about doing things for 'our kids,' they mean for their own biological kids."

Robert Putnam

"They say, ‘Well, they’re not my kids, they’re somebody else’s kids, let those other people worry about them,' and that shriveling of our sense of responsibility for all the kids in town is the deepest underlying culture cause here."

Putnam has consulted the last three American presidents and his writings are among the most cited in the social sciences. He is now the Malkin Professor of Public Policy at the Harvard University John F. Kennedy School of Government.

Putnam will be in Des Moines Friday, July 10, 2015 to speak at Drake University at The Harkin Institute for Public Policy and Citizen Engagement from 9:00 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.