One of the core U.S. beliefs is that the positions that we come to occupy and the resources we come to control should be due to effort, or in other words that they should be earned. It could be argued that the American Revolution was fought, in part, to throw off a system of aristocracy in which position and control over resources was inherited. In other words, the U.S. aspires to be a meritocracy rather than an aristocracy. This is one of the reasons why concern about how resources are distributed and how they come to be that way is of key sociological interest in the United States. Sociologists can help assess the degree to which people’s values match their actions, or to put it another way, the extent to which their princples match their practices.

According to another data-rich report, State of the Dream 2005: Disowned in the Ownership Society, released by United for a Fair Economy, race and ethnicity continues to play a powerful role in people’s access to income and wealth. They conclude that:

1. The employment and income picture has gotten worse for people of color since 2000, eroding progress made during the 1990s.
2. Private retirement income and inheritances remain scarce among people of color.
3. Ownership of homes, stocks and businesses remains disproportionately in white hands.

When looking at the numbers in the tables, charts, and grafts, it is difficult to conclude that race and ethnicity do not play a significant role in shaping where people end up.