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Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The American Dream’s promise of a better life if you work hard enough is fracturing.

The big picture: Socioeconomic mobility in the U.S. is at its most sluggish in history. Not only are fewer Americans living better than their parents, but there’s also a growing number of people doing worse than their parents.

By the numbers:

  • The World Economic Forum released a report this week in Davos that ranked the United States 27th in the world for social mobility. The top five nations were Denmark, Norway, Finland. Sweden and Iceland.
  • In a recent study, researchers from UPenn, Northwestern, the University of Nebraska and the Census Bureau looked back as far as 1850 and concluded that socioeconomic mobility in America is at its worst ever.
  • Per the study, around 60% of people born in the 1940s did better than their parents, compared to 40% of those born in the 1980s.
  • And just 15% of 1940s kids lived worse than their parents, compared to 30% of people born in the 1980s.

"Most parents expect that their kids will do better than them," says Xi Song, a professor at UPenn and one of the researchers. But now that happens for less than half of kids.

There's a stark racial gap when it comes to mobility, Stanford law professor Ralph Richard Banks writes in a New York Times op-ed.

  • "Black boys who grow up rich are twice as likely as their white counterparts to end up poor."
  • "And of those black boys who start life poor, nearly half will remain so in adulthood, while more than 2 in 3 of their white peers will escape the poverty of their youth."

And mobility depends on where you grow up, too.

  • As we reported earlier this week, kids' earning potential and life expectancy hinge on the neighborhoods where they were born.
  • "For moving from the bottom of the income ladder to the top, the South offers the worst odds in the United States," per NYT.
  • On top of that, areas with low social mobility in the U.S. also have larger life expectancy gaps between the rich and the poor, per another UPenn study out this week.

The bottom line: Worsening income inequality paired with stagnant socioeconomic mobility is defining today's America. And these trends will impact everything from public health to how people vote in 2020.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Most teachers are white. Most students aren't.

Expand chart
Data: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics; Chart: Baidi Wang/Axios

The nation's 6.6 million teacher workforce has grown more racially and ethnically diverse over the past three decades — but not nearly fast enough to keep pace with a student population that's nearing majority-minority in public schools, two new reports show.

Why it matters: The disparities are especially acute between Hispanic students and teachers, and in schools with 90% or higher non-white student populations.

Updated 12 hours ago - World

UK government: Kremlin has plan "to install pro-Russian leadership" in Ukraine

British Foreign Secretary Elizabeth Truss. Photo: Gints Ivuskans / AFP via Getty Images

The United Kingdom's Foreign Secretary on Saturday night said the government has "information that indicates the Russian Government is looking to install a pro-Russian leader in Kyiv as it considers whether to invade and occupy Ukraine."

Driving the news: U.S. National Security Council spokeswoman Emily Horne called the intelligence "deeply concerning" in a statement to Axios. The Biden administration has said Russia is actively manufacturing a pretext for invasion and warned that Putin could use joint military exercises in Belarus as cover to invade from the north.

Updated 14 hours ago - Science

This powerful new accelerator looks for keys to the center of atoms

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Nuclear physicists trying to piece together how atoms are built are about to get a powerful new tool.

Why it matters: When the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams begins experiments later this spring, physicists from around the world will use the particle accelerator to better understand the inner workings of atoms that make up all the matter that can be seen in the universe.