• A key part of the American Dream is the idea that anyone can make it to the top, no matter where you come from.
  • But a World Bank report shows that it’s more likely for children from modest backgrounds to reach a higher economic echelon in most countries than it is in the US.
  • Nearly all of the high-income countries in the study fared better on a metric of intergenerational educational mobility than the US.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

One of the core elements of the American Dream is the idea that anyone can make it to the top, regardless of where one starts out in life.

But, according to a 2018 report on intergenerational educational and economic mobility from the World Bank, that dream is more realistic in most other high-income countries than in the US.

The report and its associated Global Database on Intergenerational Mobility include several metrics of how the economic and educational opportunities of children are related to the situations of their parents.

One of the World Bank’s measures is the share of children born to parents in the bottom half of the educational attainment in a country that end up in the top quarter of that distribution as adults – that is, how likely it is that someone born into a family with a more modest background can grow up to have similar educational opportunities to his or her peers with more affluent parents.

The US does not fare particularly well on this metric: 12.5% of children born in the 1980s to parents in the bottom half of the educational attainment distribution ended up in the top quarter. 88 of the 135 countries for which the World Bank estimated this figure had a higher share, and all but three of the 35 countries the World Bank identified as high-income, developed economies had a higher share.

Here are the 31 high-income countries in the World Bank’s database where a higher share of children born into the bottom half ended up in the top quarter, ranked from lowest to highest on that measure:

Lees ook op Business Insider


31. Ireland: 12.9% of children with parents in the bottom half ended up in the top quarter.

Foto: sourceMadrugada Verde/Shutterstock

30. Italy: 13.0% of children with parents in the bottom half ended up in the top quarter.

Foto: sourceGetty Images

29. Hungary: 13.3% of children with parents in the bottom half ended up in the top quarter.

Foto: sourceReuters

28. Latvia: 13.3% of children with parents in the bottom half ended up in the top quarter.

Foto: sourceKarolis Kavolelis/Shutterstock

27. Croatia: 13.9% of children with parents in the bottom half ended up in the top quarter.

Foto: sourceinavanhateren/Shutterstock

26. France: 14.9% of children with parents in the bottom half ended up in the top quarter.

Foto: sourceReuters

25. Switzerland: 14.9% of children with parents in the bottom half ended up in the top quarter.

Foto: Geneva, SwitzerlandsourceS-F / Shutterstock

24. Spain: 15.0% of children with parents in the bottom half ended up in the top quarter.

Foto: sourceReuters/YVES HERMAN

23. Poland: 15.0% of children with parents in the bottom half ended up in the top quarter.

Foto: sourceReuters

22. Austria: 15.1% of children with parents in the bottom half ended up in the top quarter.

Foto: sourceSean Gallup/Getty Images

21. Belgium: 15.3% of children with parents in the bottom half ended up in the top quarter.

Foto: European Union flags fly outside the European Commission headquarters in BrusselssourceReuters

20. Finland: 15.6% of children with parents in the bottom half ended up in the top quarter.

Foto: sourceReuters

19. Lithuania: 15.7% of children with parents in the bottom half ended up in the top quarter.

Foto: People in Vilnius, Lithuania in 2018.sourceMax Rossi / Reuters

18. Slovak Republic: 15.7% of children with parents in the bottom half ended up in the top quarter.

Foto: Slovakia’s President Zuzana Caputova takes office in BratislavasourceReuters

17. Norway: 15.9% of children with parents in the bottom half ended up in the top quarter.

Foto: Norway’s Defense Station Vardø on the Barents Sea.sourceNorwegian Ministry of Defense

16. Australia: 16.1% of children with parents in the bottom half ended up in the top quarter.

Foto: sourceGetty Images

15. Portugal: 16.3% of children with parents in the bottom half ended up in the top quarter.

Foto: sourceRolf E. Staerk/Shutterstock

14. Canada: 16.3% of children with parents in the bottom half ended up in the top quarter.

Foto: sourceReuters

13. Taiwan: 16.3% of children with parents in the bottom half ended up in the top quarter.

Foto: sourceGetty Images

12. Czech Republic: 16.7% of children with parents in the bottom half ended up in the top quarter.

Foto: sourceShutterstock

11. Israel: 16.8% of children with parents in the bottom half ended up in the top quarter.

Foto: sourceKarl Good / EyeEm / Getty Images

10. South Korea: 17.0% of children with parents in the bottom half ended up in the top quarter.

Foto: Seoul, South Korea.sourceTravel man / Shutterstock.com

9. Netherlands: 17.1% of children with parents in the bottom half ended up in the top quarter.

Foto: People cool off underneath a tree during a sunny day in the Vondelpark in AmsterdamsourceReuters

8. Germany: 17.1% of children with parents in the bottom half ended up in the top quarter.

Foto: sourceShutterstock

7. Estonia: 17.6% of children with parents in the bottom half ended up in the top quarter.

Foto: Fiery sunset with vivid clouds over Suru Suursoo bog, reflection on water, Harju county, EstoniasourceShutterstock

6. Japan: 18.1% of children with parents in the bottom half ended up in the top quarter.

Foto: sourceJon Connell/Flickr/Attribution license

5. Sweden: 18.5% of children with parents in the bottom half ended up in the top quarter.

Foto: sourceOlga Evans/Shutterstock

4. United Kingdom: 18.6% of children with parents in the bottom half ended up in the top quarter.

Foto: sourceMarissa Perino/Business Insider

3. Slovenia: 19.2% of children with parents in the bottom half ended up in the top quarter.

Foto: sourceRoman Babakin/Shutterstock

2. Denmark: 21.1% of children with parents in the bottom half ended up in the top quarter.

Foto: sourceReuters

1. Cyprus: 22.8% of children with parents in the bottom half ended up in the top quarter.

Foto: sourceShutterstock