Just speaking standard English in an English-speaking country can improve the odds of rising.
But multiculturalists' celebration of foreign languages or ethnic dialects, and of counterproductive cultural patterns exemplified by such things as gangsta rap, can promote the very social stagnation that they blame on "society."
Meanwhile, Asian immigrants or refugees who arrive here are not handicapped or distracted by a counterproductive social vision full of envy, resentment and paranoia, and so can rise in the very same society where opportunity is said to be absent.
Those "social scientists," journalists and others - committed to the theory that social barriers keep people down - often cite statistics showing that the top income brackets receive a disproportionate and growing share of the country's income.
But the very opposite conclusion arises in studies that follow actual flesh-and-blood individuals over time, most of whom move up across the various income brackets with the passing years.
Most working Americans who were initially in the bottom 20 percent of income-earners rise out of that bottom 20 percent. More of them end up in the top 20 percent than remain in the bottom 20 percent.
People who were initially in the bottom 20 percent in income have had the highest rate of increase in their incomes, while those who were initially in the top 20 percent have had the lowest.
This is the direct opposite of the pattern found when following income brackets over time, rather than following individual people.
Most of the media publicize what is happening to the statistical brackets - especially that "top 1 percent" - rather than what is happening to individual people.
We should be concerned with the economic fate of flesh-and-blood human beings, not waxing indignant over the fate of abstract statistical brackets.
Unless, we are hustling for an expansion of the welfare state.
Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University in California. His website is www.tsowell.com.