TRUTHINESS IN THE STYLE SECTION. Inspired by Friends With Money, The New York Times decided to inflict a little ignorance on the American people, informing their readers that economic barriers to friendship are growing in salience because "other barriers have been broken down." After all, people make friends in college where "Students from country-club families and those on scholarships are thrown together as roommates, on athletic teams and in classes." This is best put in the "deeply misleading" file. Tuition is so high at private colleges that most of the people on financial aid (e.g., my freshman roommate) are from richer-than-average families. Similarly, while it's true as the article states that a higher-than-ever share of people from more modest backgrounds go to college nowadays, rich kids and poor kids go to different colleges. The actual level of economic diversity on elite campuses is low and declining.
If economic differences among friends really are increasing in salience, or at least in salience to New York Times readers, that's probably because inequality in the top of the income distribution has been exploding. The difference in earning power between the 85th percentile and the 95th percentile, or the 95th percentile and the 99th percentile is now so big that a group of friends from even a very economically homogenous college can wind up making wildly different amounts of money.
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