David Forbes’ Aug. 7 article, “The American Dream,” was interesting, but held no surprise for me. I have lived in three regions of the U.S., the last 25 years being in the Southeast — Atlanta for the majority of it and Asheville more recently. With that as background, I'd like to add something that wasn't covered in the article, because I don't think the researchers would be aware of it. You'd have to live here for a while to understand it, I think.
My view is that a substantial reason that the Southeast ranks poorly in income upward mobility has much to do with culture. It is a culture of the status quo, of people doing the same things, often the same way as their parents did. I remember staring, astonished, at the television a couple of years ago while a commercial of a regional mayonnaise brand provided this as the reasoning for buying their product — that the mother and grandmother of the cook speaking in the ad had used it. Nothing about taste, quality of ingredients, price or anything to appeal to the critical thinking or individual appeal of the audience.
The means of improving one’s economic prospects rests in the practice of independent thinking, questioning status quo, discussion, listening openly and deciding to create useful change or innovate new products/services. This can occur at any level of employment. The manager of a fast-food restaurant achieved that upward position by looking beyond purely how to cook a good burger.
The good news is that being open-minded, inquisitive and forward-thinking is a choice. Anyone can make it and anyone can learn to do it. Like many things, it just takes willingness and practice.
I also believe it is not random that Asheville ranked the highest of North Carolina cities. It has become a melting pot of people from all over the USA and that has opened the culture and the thinking, which has spawned all kinds of upwardly mobile creativity.
— Anna Barnes