Wealth is generally inherited in this country. There are few individuals who actually move up the social status ladder. Having wealth opens many doors (through education and contacts) for children of the wealthy to make large sums of money when they become adults. For children living poverty, there is little chance to escape when they become older.
Yet there is the myth of individualism, held by many Americans. It states that the rich are personally responsible for their success, and that the poor are to blame for their failure. The main points of this myth are:
- Each individual should work and strive to succeed in competition with others.
- Those who work hard should be rewarded with success (seen as wealth, property, prestige, and power).
- Because of widespread and equal opportunity, those who work hard will, in fact, be rewarded with success.
- Economic failure is an individual’s own fault and reveals lack of effort and other character defects.
The poor are blamed for their circumstances in our society. Blaming the poor has led to a stigma on poverty, particularly on those who receive public assistance.