Study finds little movement on economic ladder

Jul 13, 2012 by Karen Faster

(Phys.org) -- Economic opportunity is not the same for everyone in the United States, new research by La Follette School director Thomas DeLeire shows.

While 84 percent of Americans have higher incomes than their parents did at the same age, those born at the top and bottom of the income ladder are likely to stay there as adults.

DeLeire and co-author Leonard Lopoo of Syracuse University conducted the study for The Pew Charitable Trusts, which released the results July 9.

The report, "Pursuing the American Dream: Economic Mobility across Generations," uses the most current data to measure mobility by family income and family wealth, furthering the project's understanding of how closely tied a person's place on the economic ladder is to that of his or her parents.

The research shows that:

  • African Americans are still less likely to exceed their parents' income and wealth than are whites and they are more likely to be stuck at the bottom of the economic ladder across a generation.
  • A four-year college degree promotes upward mobility from the bottom and prevents downward mobility from the middle and the top.
Most sons are meeting or exceeding the earnings of their fathers at the same age. However, the sons' earnings represent a smaller proportion of family income than did men's earnings in the fathers' generation.
"The ideal of the American Dream is complex and we see again that one's ability to achieve it is impacted by race, education, and family background," says Erin Currier, manager of Pew's Project.

The report considers both absolute and relative mobility to provide a full picture of what is happening in the United States. Absolute mobility measures whether a person has more or less income or wealth than his or her parents did at the same age. Relative mobility looks at a person's rank on the or wealth ladder compared to his or her parents' rank at the same age.

The report's data are from the Panel Study for , which was designed in 1968. To compensate for the absence of Latinos and groups that immigrated to the after 1968, a sample was added in 1990. However, because this report incorporates data from the parent generation in 1968, or before the Latino and immigrant samples were added, the sample is too small to explore mobility among Latinos.

Explore further: Precarious work schedules common among younger workers

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User comments : 3

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AWaB
4.7 / 5 (3) Jul 13, 2012
You can't force people to study. You can't force them to go to work... unless you let them get hungry, which we don't anymore. It's all up to personal goals and the attempts to succeed. If they're content, then they won't work any harder.
freethinking
5 / 5 (2) Jul 13, 2012
African Americans have been hurt the most by Progressives idea's. When they realize that the democrats, the party of racists, have been playing them, they will as a group finally achieve equality.
morilindez
not rated yet Jul 17, 2012
As an individual who was very hungry in college, I agree with AWaB :)