We are fortunate to live at a time when so many interesting people are able to produce so much valuable content. But that abundance also means we are more likely to miss something relevant. So as we continue to publish new perspectives and observations, it’s worth highlighting a few of our most-read and most interesting posts from the last couple of years. We hope you’ll stay tuned for the great stuff we have planned for the next few.
In June 2020, Archbridge Institute President and CEO Gonzalo Schwarz spoke with Dr. Glenn Loury about inequality, racial disparities, the American Dream, and more.
[T]here are two major categories that represent barriers that stand in the way of low-income individuals and families striving for a better life for themselves and for their loved ones. Some barriers are artificial in nature, meaning that they are imposed from an external authority and would not exist without that imposition. Others are more natural, barriers that occur without external imposition and typically exist on an individual level. Sometimes these barriers can overlap or influence one another, but if we are to take the problem of poverty seriously and create an environment which allows low-income individuals to get themselves out of poverty, both kinds of barriers must be addressed.
When discussing the American Dream and economic mobility, we’re fundamentally talking about how individual choices, the socioeconomic and institutional environment, and other circumstances affect people and their families on a micro level. The fundamental question involves understanding how individuals and their families succeed and climb further up the income distribution (and what barriers might hinder that process). However, these individual decisions ultimately translate into macro trends, behaviors, and measurable outcomes that enable a more expansive discussion on societal progress. Understanding these trends at a macro level is an important step in enabling the kind of improvements that are ultimately utilized at the individual, familial, and community levels.
On April 14, 2020 Gonzalo Schwarz, President and CEO of the Archbridge Institute, conducted a short but varied interview with Dr. James J. Heckman. The discussion focused on everything from the state of the American Dream, the importance of family structure on life outcomes, and the likely longer-term impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic.
It’s easier to blame broad structural issues and societal context than taking responsibility and exercising personal agency. Blaming super structures and systems might feel better and be easier because we’re attacking an abstract concept and not some individual in particular. We can generalize our problems away into an abstract, granting a lot of latitude as to how to argue against one’s personal responsibility. No matter the source, we need to turn away from the temptation to blame disembodied “forces” exercising complete control over our destinies and rediscover our agency.
Ensuring that kids have the opportunity to develop the skills necessary to handle uncertainty starts early. Allowing kids enough independence to tackle new challenges, confront increasingly difficult obstacles, and even allowing them to fail and learn from those failures are crucial components in shaping kids into resilient teenagers and adults. Perhaps even more important is the essential role of unsupervised play, an increasingly rare phenomenon, in childhood development.