Social Mobility

  • Gary Solon
  • Raj Chetty
  • Florencia Torche

Leaders: Raj Chetty, Gary Solon, Florencia Torche

The purpose of the Social Mobility RG is to develop and exploit new administrative sources for measuring mobility and the effects of policy on mobility out of poverty. This research group is doing so by (a) providing comprehensive analyses of intergenerational mobility based on linked administrative data from U.S. tax returns, W-2s, and other sources, and (b) developing a new infrastructure for monitoring social mobility, dubbed the American Opportunity Study, that is based on linking census and other administrative data. Here’s a sampling of projects:

Small place estimates: The Equal Opportunity Project, led by Raj Chetty, uses tax return data to monitor opportunities for mobility out of poverty. In one of the new lines of analysis coming out of this project, the first round of results at the level of “commuting zones” are being redone at a more detailed level (e.g., census block level), thus allowing for even better inferences about the effects of place.

The American Opportunity Study: This research group is also collaborating with the Census Bureau to develop a new infrastructure for monitoring mobility that treats linked decennial census data as the spine on which other administrative data are hung.

Colleges and rising income inequality: Where do poor children go to attend college? The “Mobility Report Card” will convey the joint distribution of parent and student incomes for every Title IV institution in the United States.

The “absolute mobility” of the poor: What fraction of poor children grow up to earn more than their parents? Have rates of absolute upward mobility changed over time? This project develops a new method of estimating rates of absolute mobility for the 1940-1984 birth cohorts.

Intergenerational elasticities in the U.S.: There remains some debate about the size of intergenerational elasticities in the U.S. A rarely-used sample of 1987 tax data provides new evidence on U.S. elasticities.

Mobility - CPI Research

Title Author Media
A Summary of What We Know About Social Mobility Michael Hout

A Summary of What We Know About Social Mobility

Author: Michael Hout
Publisher: Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science
Date: 01/2015

Academic research on social mobility from the 1960s until now has made several facts clear. First, and most important, it is better to ask how the conditions and circumstances of early life constrain adult success than to ask who is moving up and who is not. The focus on origins keeps the substantive issues of opportunity and fairness in focus, while the mobility question leads to confusing side issues. Second, mobility is intrinsically symmetrical; each upward move is offset by a downward move in the absence of growth, expansion, or immigration. Third, social origins are not a single dimension of inequality that can be paired with the outcome of interest (without significant excluded variable bias); they are a comprehensive set of conditions describing the circumstances of youth. Fourth, the constraints of social origins vary by time, place, and subpopulation. These four “knowns” should inform any attempt to collect new data on mobility.

Monitoring Social Mobility in the Twenty-First Century. The Annals, volume 657 David Grusky, Timothy Smeeding, C. Matthew Snipp

Monitoring Social Mobility in the Twenty-First Century. The Annals, volume 657

Author: David Grusky, Timothy Smeeding, C. Matthew Snipp
Publisher: Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science
Date: 01/2015

The last major survey on U.S. social mobility was fielded in 1973.  Since then, the country’s capacity to monitor trends in mobility has languished, making it difficult to evaluate new concerns that mobility may be declining or to develop evidence-based policy on mobility and opportunity.  Once a leader in mobility research, the U.S. is now one of the few advanced industrial countries that lacks a high-quality infrastructure for monitoring trends in mobility, a surprising state of affairs for a country so committed to openness and equal opportunity.  The purpose of this volume, which brings together the country’s top scholars of mobility, is to examine how the U.S. can rectify this state of affairs and restore its capacity to monitor trends in mobility and to speak to the effects of social programs on opportunity.   

A New Infrastructure for Monitoring Social Mobility in the United States David B. Grusky, Timothy M. Smeeding, C. Matthew Snipp

A New Infrastructure for Monitoring Social Mobility in the United States

Author: David B. Grusky, Timothy M. Smeeding, C. Matthew Snipp
Publisher: Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science
Date: 01/2015

The country’s capacity to monitor trends in social mobility has languished since the last major survey on U.S. social mobility was fielded in 1973. It is accordingly difficult to evaluate recent concerns that social mobility may be declining or to develop mobility policy that is adequately informed by evidence. This article presents a new initiative, dubbed the American Opportunity Study (AOS), that would allow the country to monitor social mobility efficiently and with great accuracy. The AOS entails developing the country’s capacity to link records across decennial censuses, the American Community Survey, and administrative sources. If an AOS of this sort were assembled, it would open up new fields of social science inquiry; increase opportunities for evidence-based policy on poverty, mobility, child development, and labor markets; and otherwise constitute a new social science resource with much reach and impact.

Where is the Land of Opportunity? The Geography of Intergenerational Mobility in the United States Raj Chetty, Nathaniel Hendren, Patrick Kline, Emmanuel Saez

Where is the Land of Opportunity? The Geography of Intergenerational Mobility in the United States

Author: Raj Chetty, Nathaniel Hendren, Patrick Kline, Emmanuel Saez
Publisher:
Date: 06/2014

The United States is often hailed as the “land of opportunity,” a society in which a child’s chances of success depend little on his family background. Is this reputation warranted? We show that this question does not have a clear answer because there is substantial variation in intergenerational mobility across areas within the U.S. The U.S. is better described as a collection of societies, some of which are “lands of opportunity” with high rates of mobility across generations, and others in which few children escape poverty.

We characterize intergenerational mobility using information from de-identified federal income tax records, which provide data on the incomes of more than 40 million children and their parents between 1996 and 2012.

Theoretical Models of Inequality Transmission across Multiple Generations Gary Solon

Theoretical Models of Inequality Transmission across Multiple Generations

Author: Gary Solon
Publisher: Research in Social Stratification and Mobility
Date: 03/2014

Existing theoretical models of intergenerational transmission of socioeconomic status have strong implications for the association of outcomes across multiple generations of a family. These models, however, are highly stylized and do not encompass many plausible avenues for transmission across multiple generations. This paper extends existing models to encompass some of these avenues and draws out empirical implications for the multigenerational persistence of socioeconomic status.

Mobility - CPI Affiliates

Henryk Domanski Professor; Director, Institute of Philosophy and Sociology Polish Academy of Sciences
Hiroshi Ishida Professor University of Tokyo
Ineke Maas Associate Professor Utrecht University
Ira I. Katznelson Ruggles Professor of Political Science and History Columbia University
Jan O. Jonsson Professor of Sociology Swedish Institute for Social Research

Pages

Mobility - Other Research

Title Author Media
The Rise of Intra-Occupational Wage Inequality in the United States, 1983 to 2002 Chang Kim, Hwan and Arthur Sakamoto

The Rise of Intra-Occupational Wage Inequality in the United States, 1983 to 2002

Author: Chang Kim, Hwan and Arthur Sakamoto
Publisher: American Sociological Review
Date:
Disorder in the Life Course: How Common and Does it Matter? Rindfuss, Ronald, C. Gray Swicegood, and Rachel A...

Disorder in the Life Course: How Common and Does it Matter?

Author: Rindfuss, Ronald, C. Gray Swicegood, and Rachel A...
Publisher: American Sociological Review
Date:
Bobos in Paradise: The New Upper Class and How They Got There David Brooks

Bobos in Paradise: The New Upper Class and How They Got There

Author: David Brooks
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Date:

It used to be pretty easy to distinguish between the bourgeois world of capitalism and the bohemian counterculture. The bourgeois worked for corporations, wore gray, and went to church. The bohemians were artists and intellectuals. Bohemians championed the values of the liberated 1960s; the bourgeois were the enterprising yuppies of the 1980s. But now the bohemian and the bourgeois are all mixed up, as David Brooks explains in this brilliant description of upscale culture in America. It is hard to tell an espresso-sipping professor from a cappuccino-gulping banker. Laugh and sob as you read about the information age economy's new dominant class. Marvel at their attitudes toward morality, sex, work, and lifestyle, and at how the members of this new elite have combined the values of the countercultural sixties with those of the achieving eighties. These are the people who set the tone for society today, for you. They are bourgeois bohemians: Bobos. Are you a Bobo? Do you believe that spending $15,000 on a media center is vulgar, but that spending $15,000 on a slate shower stall is a sign that you are at one with the Zenlike rhythms of nature? Does your newly renovated kitchen look like an aircraft hangar with plumbing? Did you select your new refrigerator on the grounds that mere freezing isn't cold enough? Would you spend a little more for socially conscious toothpaste -- the kind that doesn't actually kill germs, it just asks them to leave? Do you work for one of those hip, visionary software companies where everybody comes to work in hiking boots and glacier glasses, as if a 400-foot wall of ice were about to come sliding through the parking lot? Do you think your educational credentials are just as good as those of the shimmering couples on the New York Times weddings page? If you answered yes to any of those questions, you are probably a member of today's new upper class. Even if you didn't, you'd still better pay attention, because these Bobos define our age. Their hybrid culture is the atmosphere we breathe. Their status codes govern social life, and their moral codes govern ethics and influence our politics. Bobos in Paradise is a witty and serious look at the cultural consequences of the information age and a penetrating description of how we live now.

Classification in Art DiMaggio, Paul

Classification in Art

Author: DiMaggio, Paul
Publisher: American Sociological Review
Date:
Changes in the Structure of Wages in the 1980’s: An Evaluation of Alternative Explanations John Bound and George Johnson

Changes in the Structure of Wages in the 1980’s: An Evaluation of Alternative Explanations

Author: John Bound and George Johnson
Publisher: American Economic Review
Date:

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