Marketplace: The self-made myth and the “dystopian social safety net” it created

From Kylie Jenner to Elon Musk, public figures love to claim that they’re self-made. And while the image might seem like it’s only about public relations, America’s love for the self-made mythos goes back nearly two centuries — and may have had a huge impact on public policy.

According to Alissa Quart, director of the Economic Hardship Reporting Project, the terms “self-made” and “bootstrapped” can be traced to the 1830s.

“Boots were really important in the 19th century,” Quart said in an interview with “Marketplace” host Reema Khrais. “If you’re wealthy, you had someone who could help you put them on. If you’re a working man, you were struggling to pull them up every day. So pulling yourself over your bootstraps became this symbol of getting ahead in this country all on your own steam.”

Listen to the full interview below or on Marketplace.

Save An Endangered Species: Journalists

The Economic Hardship Reporting Project supports independent journalists so they can create gripping stories which often counter the typical disparaging narratives about inequality. This high-quality journalism is then co-published with mainstream media outlets mobilizing readers to address systemic economic hardship.

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