Blogs at Amazon

Current Affairs

Two Things We Get Wrong About Social Mobility

Michael Goodwin, author of Economix: How Our Economy Works (and Doesn't Work), in Words and Pictures, discusses the challenges with getting ahead in the world. 51rFM2e87lL

A recent study claims that social mobility in the U.S. hasn’t changed for the last several decades. (See “Upward Mobility Has Not Declined, Study Says” by David Leonhardt, New York Times, January 23, 2014.) The paper received a lot of attention; after all, most of us think it’s harder to get ahead than it used to be.

And we’re right. The paper looks at one type of social mobility, and not the important type.

Think of a ladder with a hundred rungs, with a person on each rung. The paper looks at our ability to climb the ladder—the chance that, say, someone born on rung 20 can climb to rung 80.

And it’s true that it’s no harder for a child born at the bottom to climb to the top than it was in the 1970s. (It’s not easy, compared to other countries, but it’s no harder.)

But that type of mobility isn’t what we should be looking at. After all, it’s a zero-sum game—you can’t climb up a rung without pushing someone else down.

By contrast, here’s what social mobility used to look like. Check out how real after-tax incomes increased just from 1941 to 1950 (in constant dollars):

Income rank

Change in After-Tax Income, 1941-1950

Bottom 20%

+42%

Next 20%

+37%

Middle 20%

+24%

Next 20%

+16%

Top 20%

+8%

Source: The Review of Economics and Statistics, Selma Goldsmith, et. al., Vol. 36, No. 1, The MIT Press, Feb., 1954.

So if you were on, say, the 40th rung, your income improved even if you stayed on that rung. An entire generation rose into the middle class, not because other people dropped out of it, but because more people could afford a middle-class lifestyle.

That’s the type of social mobility we want, and that’s what we’ve lost. Where the ladder used to lengthen, carrying us up even if we stayed on the same rung, now we’re lucky to stay even. All too often, people who stay on the same rung fall out of the middle class. (See “The Middle Class Is Steadily Eroding. Just Ask the Business World.” by Nelson D. Schwartz, New York Times, February 2, 2014.)

Why did this happen? Was it, as Time says (in “Time to Talk About Inequality” by Rana Foroohar, February 10, 2014), the unavoidable result of “the forces of globalization and technology?”

If that sounds odd to you, you’re right—we had technology and trade in the mid-20th century, and economic law hasn’t somehow completely reversed itself since then. And other countries share our technology, and trade in the same world, without squeezing their middle class out of existence.

What’s really changed is our politics. In the mid-20th century our economic policies were designed to expand the middle class. Since the 1980s, our policies—whatever their official justifications—have been designed to concentrate wealth at the very top. In both cases, the policies worked.

For instance, check out the income tax, circa 1948:

Income

Income left over after federal income tax

$1,000

$1,000

$5,000

$4,300

$20,000

$13,800

$200,000

$52,000

$1 million

$161,000

Source: Paul Samuelson, Economics, McGraw-Hill, 1948, p173.

To turn that into current dollars, add a zero—a 1948 dollar had roughly ten times the purchasing power of a 2013 dollar (see this CPI Inflation Calculator). So someone who made the equivalent of $10 million would get to keep only a little more than a million and a half.

In the government’s hands, that money became spending and jobs.

Today, billionaires pay lower tax rates than their secretaries (see “Buffett says he's still paying lower tax rate than his secretary” by Chris Isidore @CNNMoney, March 4, 2013) and that’s if they pay taxes at all (see “Millionaires Don't Pay Taxes?” by Dennis Romero, LAWeekly, Mon, Aug 8, 2011). They sit on that money (see “How the rich save today” by Lora Shinn, Bankrate.com), while the government can barely afford to stay open at all.

So we get two things wrong about social mobility. It is falling, and it’s not due to the impersonal operation of economic laws. If we want to return to the sort of mobility we used to have—where “getting ahead” didn’t mean leaving someone else behind—we should try returning to the sort of policies that favor the middle class.

Certainly, favoring the rich hasn’t helped anyone except the rich.

10 Best Kindle Books of October, 2012

Best-of-month top banner

Our editors' picks this month include mothers and sons, terrorists on the run, novels ranging from heartwarming to bone-chilling, and more great choices for every reader as the days get shorter and crisper.

Introducing our selections for the Best Books of October:

 

 The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe

The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe

 

Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher: The Epic Life and Immortal Photographs of Edward Curtis by Timothy Egan

Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher--The Epic Life and Immortal Photographs of Edward Curtis by Timothy Egan

The Finish: The Killing of Osama Bin Laden by Mark Bowden

The Finish--The Killing of Osama Bin Laden by Mark Bowden

The Round House by Louise Erdrich

The Round House by Louise Erdrich

 

Live by Night by Dennis Lehane

Live by Night by Dennis Lehane

 

The Middlesteins by Jami Attenberg

The Middlesteins by Jami Attenberg

 

The News from Spain: Seven Variations on a Love Story by Joan Wickersham

The News from Spain--Seven Variations on a Love Story by Joan Wickersham

Muck City: Winning and Losing in Football's Forgotten Town by Bryan Mealer

Muck City--Winning and Losing in Football's Forgotten Town by Bryan Mealer

 

Back to Blood by Tom Wolfe

  Back to Blood by Tom Wolfe

 

May We Be Forgiven by A.M. Holmes

May We Be Forgiven by A.M. Holmes

October's Kindle Books for $3.99 or Less

For great books at a low price, browse this month's 100 Kindle books for $3.99 or less, a diverse offering available all month. These deals expire on October 31, 2012. Here's a selection of our favorites from October's great collection:

 

Literature & Fiction 

When It Happens to You: A Novel in Stories by Molly Ringwald, $3.99

When It Happens to You--A Novel in Stories by Molly Ringwald

General Nonfiction 

All New Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew, $2.99

  All New Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew

Kids & Teens 

The Secret Zoo by Bryan Chick, $1.99

  The Secret Zoo by Bryan Chick

Mysteries & Thrillers

77 Days in September by Ray Gorham, $1.99

  77 Days in September by Ray Gorham

Romance

Wild Montana Sky (The Montana Sky Series) by Debra Holland, $1.99

  Wild Montana Sky (The Montana Sky Series) by Debra Holland

Science Fiction & Fantasy 

American Gods: The Tenth Anniversary Edition (Enhanced Edition) by Neil Gaiman, $3.99

American Gods--The Tenth Anniversary Edition (Enhanced Edition) by Neil Gaiman

Biography & Memoir 

The Master of Disguise: My Secret Life in the CIA by Antonio J. Mendez, $0.99

The Master of Disguise--My Secret Life in the CIA by Antonio J. Mendez

Top 10 Kindle Books of September

Best-of-month top banner

Our editors' picks this month include the real Count of Monte Cristo, new fiction by Junot Diaz and Zadie Smith, a riveting take on data-based forecasting (truly!), and more great choices for every reader as we balance on the cusp of fall.

The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail--but Some Don't by Nate Silver

Signal

 

 


 

 

Mortality by Christopher Hitchens

Mortality

 

 


 

 

This Is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz

This is

 

 


 

 

The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo by Tom Reiss

Black Count

 

 


 

 

Sutton by J.R. Moehringer

Sutton

 

 


 

 

Every Day by David Levithan

Every day

 

 


 

 

500 Days: Secrets and Lies in the Terror Wars by Kurt Eichenwald

500

 

 


 

 

My Heart Is an Idiot: Essays by Davy Rothbart

My heart

 

 


 

 

NW: A Novel by Zadie Smith

NW

 

 

 

 

 

The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson

100 year old man

 

 


One Big Deal for a Limited Time

 Summer-savings._V145353244_SY100_SX600_

The Big Deal is back. More than 500 Kindle books are now available for as low as $0.99, including literature, nonfiction, thrillers, romance, cookbooks, books for kids and teens, and more. Shop for yourself, or give Kindle books--delivered when you want--to anyone with an e-mail address. (No Kindle required. Books can be read on Kindle or one of our free reading apps.) But hurry--these deals expire on August 23.

The Big Deal's diverse range of categories includes:

Literature & Fiction as Low as $0.99

Literature and Fiction as Low as $0.99

 

 

 

  

 

Romance as Low as $0.99

The Big Deal--Romance as Low as $0.99

 

Nonfiction Books as Low as $0.99

Nonfiction Books as Low as $0.99

 

 

 

 

 

Biographies & Memoirs as Low as $0.99

 Biographies and Memoirs as Low as $0.99

 

 

 

 

 

Teen Books for $2.99 or Less

The Big Deal--Teen Books for $2.99 or Less

 

 

 

 

Children's Books, $2.99 or Less

The Big Deal Children's Books, $2.99 or Less

 

 

 

 

 

Health, Mind & Body Books: $3.99 or Less

Health, Mind & Body Books $3.99 or Less


August's Kindle Books for $3.99 or Less

100 Kindle Books for 3.99 or Less banner

 

Looking for great books at a low price? Browse this month's 100 Kindle books for $3.99 or less, a diverse offering available all month. These deals expire on August 31, 2012.

Literature & Fiction 

The Magic Kingdom by Stanley ElkinThe Magic Kingdom by Stanley Elkin, $2.99

Written with deadpan humor and poignancy, this striking and honest portrayal of life and death follows a grieving father's epic trip to Disney World with seven terminally ill children.

 

 

General Nonfiction

Desert Solitaire by Edward AbbeyDesert Solitaire by Edward Abbey, $2.99

First published in 1968 and written while Abbey was working as a ranger at Arches National Park outside of Moab, Utah. It's a rare view of one man's quest to experience nature in its purest form.

 

Kids & Teens 

Favorite by Karen McQuestionFavorite by Karen McQuestion, $1.99

After young teenager Angie Favorite narrowly escapes a kidnapping attempt, the culprit's mother seeks to apologize. Angie allows the gesture and learns this woman may hold the key to her mother's disappearance.

 

Mysteries & Thrillers

Solo by Jack HigginsSolo by Jack Higgins, $1.99

This classic thriller follows piano virtuoso and skilled assassin John Mikali. After he kills a young woman while fleeing a murder scene, the woman’s father, a British special-forces soldier, seeks vengeance and begins hunting down Mikali.

 

Science Fiction & Fantasy 

Anno Dracula by Kim NewmanAnno Dracula by Kim Newman, $3.99

Acclaimed novelist Kim Newman explores the darkest depths of a reinvented Victorian London in his best-selling novel, a vampire tale that deftly combines horror, politics, mystery and romance.

 

 

Biographies & Memoirs

Heart in the Right Place by Carolyn JourdanHeart in the Right Place by Carolyn Jourdan, $2.99

Carolyn Jourdan, an attorney on Capitol Hill, thought she had it made, but when her mother has a heart attack, she returns to the mountains of Tennessee where her father is a country doctor. With great humor and great tenderness, Jourdan shows that some of our biggest heroes are the ones living right beside us.

 

Cooking

The Healthy College Cookbook by Alexandra NimetzThe Healthy College Cookbook by Alexandra Nimetz, $2.51

Written by students for students, this collection offers hundreds of simple and healthful alternatives to dreary cafeteria fare. Even the most discerning young palates are sure to appreciate these tried and true recipes.

 

Be sure to browse August's entire selection of 100 Kindle Books for $3.99 or Less to discover great fiction and nonfiction titles catering to all tastes.

 

Note: Deals expire on the last day of each month. Individual books may have additional territory restrictions, and not all deals are available in all territories.

Top 10 Kindle Books for July

Best-of-month top banner

This month's editors' picks include astronauts and cyclists and violinists (oh my!), as well as more new fiction and nonfiction for every summertime reader:

 Shine Shine Shine by Lydia Netzer

Shine Shine Shine by Lydia NetzerIn this singularly powerful love story that balances between two worlds, an astronaut on a perilous mission tries to save his fraying marriage to his soul mate.

 

 

 

The Long Walk by Brian Castner

The Long Walk by Brian CastnerBrian Castner served three tours of duty in the Middle East. When he came home, he fell apart. This is his unflinching account of the toll war exacts on those who fight.

 

 

 

Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness

Shadow of Night by Deborah HarknessPicking up where her sensational debut left off, the second volume in Deborah Harkness's All Souls Trilogy transports you to a land of alchemy, time travel, and magical

 

 

 

The Absolutist by John Boyne

The Absolutist by John BoyneSet in the trenches of World War I, this wrenching tale of passion, jealousy, heroism, and betrayal explores the deep connections--and rifts--that form during times of trial.

 

 

 

The Last Policeman by Ben Winters

The Last Policeman by Ben WintersWhy bother solving crimes during the countdown to the apocalypse? Detective Hank Palace may be the only one left who cares, but he refuses to let anybody get away with murder.

 

 

 

Office Girl by Joe Meno

Office Girl by Joe MenoOn the cusp of the 21st century, two frustrated artists find each other. Their chemistry warms a brutal winter, sparks creativity, and gives them hope--for a few minutes, anyway.

 

 

 

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel JoyceHarold Fry, recently retired, decides one morning to walk across England. Along the way, he redefines his own strength, his failings, and what it means to truly remember.

 

 

 

Gold by Chris Cleave

Gold by Chris CleaveCyclists Kate and Zoe met at 19 in a national training program. Now 32, they're facing their biggest race. Each wants to win gold--and each has more than a medal to lose.

 

 

 

Broken Harbor by Tana French

Broken Harbor by Tana FrenchIn her mesmerizing fourth novel about the Dublin murder squad, best-selling author Tana French delivers her signature blend of police procedural and psychological thriller.

 

 

 

The Violinist's Thumb by Sam Kean

The Violinist's Thumb by Sam KeanSam Kean unlocked the mysteries of the periodic table in "The Disappearing Spoon." Now he turns his scientific storyteller's eye to DNA, the tiny building blocks that map our talents, our physicalities, and our future.

July's Kindle Books for $3.99 or Less

100 Kindle Books for 3.99 or Less banner

It's the middle of summer, and July's selection of 100 Kindle Books for $3.99 or Less promises to help you make the most of the season. Here are some of our favorites:

 

Literature & Fiction 

Night of Knives by Ian C. EsslemontNight of Knives by Ian C. Esslemont, $2.99

The small island of Malaz is a sleepy backwater port, expect when the Shadow Moon appears. It's an occasion that brings forth demon hounds and other, darker things.

 

 

History and Biographies & Memoirs 

Born on the Fourth of July by Ron KovicBorn on the Fourth of July by Ron Kovic, $2.99

Kovic's best-selling anti-war story features a new introduction that puts his powerful and moving Vietnam War experience in a contemporary context.

 

 

Mysteries & Thrillers 

Box Nine by Jack O'ConnellBox Nine by Jack O'Connell, $1.99

Gritty narcotics detective Leonore Thomas, with a few addictions of her own, wages war against a deadly new stimulant that induces giddiness, confidence, and sexual euphoria—with a side effect of murderous rage

 

Romance 

The Frog Prince by Elle LothlorienThe Frog Prince by Elle Lothlorien, $1.99

Sex researcher Leigh discovers the handsome “someone” at her great aunt’s wake is Prince Roman Habsburg von Lorraine of Austria. What will she do with this European noble living in self-imposed exile in Denver, Colorado?

 

Kids & Teens 

Garbage Pail Kids by Art SpiegelmanGarbage Pail Kids by Art Spiegelman, $3.99

Garbage Pail Kids - a series of collectible stickers produced by Topps in the 1980s - combined spectacular artwork and over-the-top satire. This collection includes 206 rare and hard-to-find images.

 

General Nonfiction 

Lives of the Trees by Diana WellsLives of the Trees by Diana Wells, $1.99

Diana Wells has a remarkable ability to dig up curious and the captivating facts and stories about our deep-rooted relationship with trees, reminding us of just how innately bound we are to these protectors of our planet.

 

Self-Help 

We Are All Weird by Seth GodinWe Are All Weird by Seth Godin, $2.99

This book is a refreshing celebration of choice and recognizing that everyone deserves the dignity and respect that comes from being heard.

 

 

Cooking/Home & Travel 

Veggie Burgers Every Which Way by Lukas VolgerVeggie Burgers Every Which Way by Lukas Volger, $2.24

Whether you already subsist on veggie burgers or just enjoy them occasionally, Volger's cookbook is the one you'll use over and over again.

 

Be sure to browse July's entire selection of 100 Kindle Books for $3.99 or Less to discover great fiction and nonfiction titles catering to all tastes.

 

Note: Deals expire on the last day of each month. Individual books may have additional territory restrictions, and not all deals are available in all territories.

Top 10 Kindle Books for June

Best-of-month top banner

This month's editors' picks include richly imagined debut novels, riveting investigative journalism, and spine-tingling thrillers, as well as more new fiction and nonfiction for every kind of reader:

The Age of Miracles: A Novel by Karen Thompson Walker

The Age of Miracles-A Novel by Karen Thompson WalkerWith its distinctive, original voice, this luminous debut novel about coming of age is set against the backdrop of an utterly altered world.

 

 

 

Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt by Chris Hedges and Joe Sacco

Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt by Chris Hedges and Joe SaccoA veteran journalist and an award-winning illustrator traveled to the most depressed pockets of our country to report America's Great Recession. This is the harrowing, deeply moving chronicle of what they found.

 

 

Fooling Houdini: Magicians, Mentalists, Math Geeks, and... by Alex Stone

Fooling Houdini-Magicians, Mentalists, Math Geeks, and... by Alex StoneIn his quest to understand how magicians manipulate our minds, journalist Alex Stone taps into New York's vibrant underground magic scene and uncovers a wealth of insight into human perception.

 

 

Shadow and Bone (Grisha Trilogy) by Leigh Bardugo

Shadow and Bone (Grisha Trilogy) by Leigh BardugoThis lush, dark adventure introduces an unforgettable young woman with the power to save her ravaged nation, if only she can find the strength to face an army of monsters.

 

 

 

The Lost Bank by Kirsten Grind

The Lost Bank by Kirsten GrindThis compelling work of investigative reporting takes us into suburban homes and Seattle office buildings to decipher the largest bank failure in American history.

 

 

 

Gone Girl: A Novel by Gillian Flynn

Gone Girl-A Novel by Gillian FlynnFrom best-selling suspense writer Gillian Flynn comes a brilliantly plotted, nerve-racking portrait of a marriage gone horribly wrong.

 

 

 

The Watch: A Novel by Joydeep Roy-Bhattacharya

The Watch-A Novel by Joydeep Roy-BhattacharyaBased on the myth of Antigone, this haunting novel takes a timeless tragedy and hurls it into present-day Afghanistan, as the chaos of battle intertwines with one woman's mission to find her brother's body.

 

 

Tell the Wolves I'm Home: A Novel by Carol Rifka Brunt

Tell the Wolves I'm Home-A Novel by Carol Rifka BruntIn debut novelist Carol Rifka Brunt's eloquent story of love, grief, and renewal, two lonely people--a teenage girl and a friend of her beloved uncle's--build an unexpected friendship that heals them both.

 

 

Eat and Run: My Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathon Greatness by Scott Jurek and Steve Friedman

Eat and Run-My Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathon Greatness by Scott Jurek and Steve FriedmanScott Jurek has won ultramarathons worldwide, an extraordinary achievement. This book tells his story and challenges stereotypes about what it takes to succeed as an athlete.

 

 

 

Into the Darkest Corner by Elizabeth Haynes

Into the Darkest Corner by Elizabeth HaynesCatherine Bailey barely survived her last relationship, and now her dangerous ex may be on her trail again. Lock the doors and dive into this terrifying debut thriller.

Top 10 Kindle Books for May

Best-of-month top banner

 

May's editors' picks include new books from iconic American novelists John Irving and Toni Morrison, plus more great new novels and nonfiction from established writers and newcomers alike.

 

Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk by Ben FountainBilly Lynn's Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain

Poignant, funny, and heartbreaking, the new novel from this winner of the PEN/Hemingway Award and the O. Henry Prize is being called "the Catch-22 of the Iraq War."

 

 

 In One Person by John IrvingIn One Person by John Irving

A compelling story of desire, secrecy, and sexual identity, John Irving's newest novel explores unfulfilled love--tormented, funny, and affecting--and the impassioned embrace of our differences.

 

An Uncommon Education by Elizabeth PercerAn Uncommon Education by Elizabeth Percer

A young woman tries to save three people she loves in this insightful coming-of-age debut, which artfully captures the complicated ties of family, the inevitability of loss, and the importance of learning to let go.

 

The Passage of Power by Robert A. CaroThe Passage of Power by Robert A. Caro

The fourth book of the monumental "Years of Lyndon Johnson" series displays all the narrative energy and insight that has led to its being hailed as among "the truly great political biographies of the modern age."

 

Home by Toni MorrisonHome by Toni Morrison

In Nobel Prize-winner Toni Morrison's newest novel, an angry and self-loathing Korean War veteran is back in racist America after enduring trauma that left him with more than just physical scars.

 

Season of the Witch by David TalbotSeason of the Witch by David Talbot

Best-selling author David Talbot's gripping story of San Francisco examines the turbulent years between 1967 and 1982 and the men and women who led to the city's rebirth.

 

 

Trapeze by Simon MawerTrapeze by Simon Mawer

Out of school and helping the British war effort, Marian Sutro goes to WWII Paris to persuade a friend--a research physicist--to join the Allies. The outcome could affect the course of the war.

 

 

This Is How by Augusten BurroughsThis Is How by Augusten Burroughs

With black humor and in-your-face advice, best-selling author Augusten Burroughs challenges the notion of self-help books with a "proven aid in overcoming shyness... spinsterhood, grief, disease, lushery, decrepitude & more."

 

Private Empire-ExxonMobil and American Power by Steve CollPrivate Empire: ExxonMobil and American Power by Steve Coll

In a narrative driven by larger-than-life characters, Steve Coll investigates the largest and most powerful private corporation in the United States and Big Oil's place in American politics and foreign policy.

 

I Suck at Girls by Justin HalpernI Suck at Girls by Justin Halpern

Fans of the best-selling Sh*t My Dad Says will recognize the always patient voice of Justin Halpern's dad as it crackles through the pages of this hysterical new quasi-memoir.