Saturday, August 16, 2008

Intergenerational mobility in the US

The excellent, bi-partisan Economic Mobility Project has released a report Upward Intergenerational Mobility in the United States (pdf).

The report focuses on upward mobility between generations. I.e. how many people with parent from a certain income group have moved to a higher income group. Unsurprisingly, the report shows what many other studies have shown in the past, that social/income mobility in the US is not doing well, and that people from the lowest and highest income groups tend to stay in those groups.

What makes this report more interesting than most, is that they have also looked at what differences there is between races and genders. This is not something that these studies normally look at, and it's interesting to see their results.

Men experience sharply higher rates of upward economic mobility than women.
• While 41 percent of women who start in the bottom income quintile remain there, just 27 percent of men do.
• Only 38 percent of women who start in the bottom half of the income distribution surpass their parents by at least 20 percentiles, compared to 51 percent of men.
• Further, women born to parents in all 5 quintiles are significantly more likely to fall down to the bottom quintile than men. For example, women born to parents in the fourth and top quintiles are more than twice as likely as men to fall to the bottom quintile.

Blacks experience dramatically less upward economic mobility than whites.
• Forty-four percent of blacks will remain in the bottom income quintile in adulthood compared with just 25 percent of whites.
• Although the vast majority of blacks in the bottom half of the income distribution will exceed their parents’ place in the distribution, the extent of their movement is markedly lower than that of whites.
- Only about 35 percent of blacks who start in the bottom half of the income distribution will increase their relative position by 20 percentiles compared to nearly 50 percent of whites.

Rates of upward economic mobility are highest for white men, followed by white women, black men and, finally, black women.
• The economic mobility gender gap is more pronounced among whites and the economic mobility racial gap is more pronounced among men.


When looking at the figures in the report, these differences really show through.

I am looking at the numbers, an plan to do a little number crushing at some stage, but the conclusions are stark enough without any additional work from my side.

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