Certain forces tend to accelerate the movement of individuals from one group to another, while other forces tend to retard such movement. We like to boast of the opportunities which every boy has in this country to follow his bent in choosing a trade or profession. Undoubtedly there are good grounds for this boast. Examples of individuals rising from poverty to affluence are not wanting. Here a great captain of industry began life as an office boy; there a noted physician sprang from the ranks of the illiterate. Less noticeable, because they are less extreme, are the millions of cases of individuals moving from the ranks of unskilled labor to the subgroup above, from farm laborer to farm tenant to farm-owner, from the poorer paid professions to the higher paid ones. Thus there is a constant movement upward. There is also a movement downward, much less in volume and extent than the one upward, and not nearly so important. It is a filtering process largely caused by poor health, misfortune, indolence, lack of ambition, and intemperance.
These movements among industrial groups meet more obstacles than a great many people suspect. The son of an unskilled laborer, other things being equal, has a poorer chance to become a physician, than has the son of a lawyer or a merchant. He lacks, first, a proper home environment; second, an ambition to attain a relatively high industrial position; and, third, the means of getting the necessary preparation which members of the upper groups must have. An examination of the industrial groups of any community will bear out this statement. Suppose we study the family histories of a group of carpenter's apprentices. Some are almost sure to come from the ranks of unskilled labor, while the rest belong to the skilled mechanics group. Only occasionally should we find among them the son of a lawyer, doctor, merchant, or teacher. Suppose further that we should question the students of medical colleges concerning the industrial status of their parents. A few, but only a few, might answer that their respective fathers were carpenters, or plumbers, or electricians, or even unskilled laborers. Most of them, however, would say that their respective fathers were professional or business men, such as lawyers, dentists, teachers, merchants, and farmers.
Average Number of Wage-Earners by Industries: 1909.