Interesting NYT piece; though I vaguely remember a former colleague in the sociology department at one of the schools I taught at explaining how the ‘rags to riches’ story was just that: a story, a myth that really never existed in our society.
After doing a quick search, I found this NYT editorial from 2000 about “America’s rags to riches” and more importantly, this Education Week article from 2006 highlighting research about this myth (subscription required):
Among Americans’ most cherished beliefs is the idea that the United States is a land of opportunity, a place where all children have an equal shot at success regardless of the circumstances of their birth. A growing body of research suggests, however, that idea may be a myth.
Going from rags to riches in this country, some studies conducted over the past 10 to 15 years say, may be harder than it used to be. In fact, newer international studies suggest that children born into poor families in the United States have a smaller chance of rising out of poverty than their counterparts in many other industrialized nations.