Las Vegas Sun

March 21, 2018

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Scholar on how Las Vegas succeeds at providing social mobility

In his 2017 book “Dream Hoarders,” the Brookings Institution’s Richard Reeves examined how the American upper-middle class was stifling upward mobility among those at lower income levels.

During a presentation tonight at UNLV, he’ll narrow his focus to socioeconomic mobility in the West.

Reeves, a senior fellow of economic studies and co-director of the Center on Children and Families, will examine the state of the American dream in “Melting Pots and Mountains,” scheduled for 6 p.m. at the Greenspun Hall auditorium. The speech is free and open to the public.

“The basic message I’m going to set out is social mobility is an American issue. Actually, it is the American dream, in my view,” he said during an interview Tuesday. “The second point I’m going to make is that social mobility is increasingly a metro issue in the sense that you see big differences between different cities. So what we really have to do is understand what’s going on in different cities to either inhibit or promote mobility.

“Third is it’s a mountain metro issue. Why do I say that? Because the mountain metros ... do quite well by comparison to other metros.”

Reeves said Las Vegas was among the cities doing well in providing mobility.

He’ll explain why during his presentation, examining such factors as housing, K-12 and higher education, access to transportation and workforce development in driving mobility in Mountain West metros.

In “Dream Hoarders,” Reeves said the upper-middle class had rigged the housing market, gained control of top-level education systems and taken other steps to prevent others from gaining opportunities. An example: By controlling neighborhood zoning and creating tens of billions of dollars in tax incentives that provide mortgage interest deductions, upper-middle class Americans created a system designed to allow themselves to move up the ladder into nicer, larger homes near the best schools. On the other end, he said, the system was inhibiting members of the middle and lower classes from moving up the ladder.

Reeves, who first presented the fundamental ideas of “Dream Hoarders” last year during a lecture at UNLV, said the university played a key role in making Las Vegas a place with relatively strong upward mobility. The university enrolls a large number of recent immigrants and is one of the most ethnically diverse in the nation.

Reeves was named one of the top 50 thinkers in the U.S. last year by Politico. A contributor to such publications as The Atlantic, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times, his previous roles include director of the London-based political think-tank Demos and principal policy adviser to the U.K. minister for welfare reform.