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
What Do We Know So Far about Multigenerational Mobility? Gary Solon

What Do We Know So Far about Multigenerational Mobility?

Author: Gary Solon
Publisher:
Date: 03/2015

“Multigenerational mobility” refers to the associations in socioeconomic status across three or more generations. This article begins by summarizing the longstanding but recently growing empirical literature on multigenerational mobility. It then discusses multiple theoretical interpretations of the empirical patterns, including the one recently proposed in Gregory Clark’s book The Son Also Rises.

It's Not Like I'm Poor: How Working Families Make Ends Meet in a Post-Welfare World Sarah Halpern-Meekin, Kathryn Edin, Laura Tach, Jennifer Sykes

It's Not Like I'm Poor: How Working Families Make Ends Meet in a Post-Welfare World

Author: Sarah Halpern-Meekin, Kathryn Edin, Laura Tach, Jennifer Sykes
Publisher: University of California Press
Date: 01/2015

The world of welfare has changed radically. As the poor trade welfare checks for low-wage jobs, their low earnings qualify them for a hefty check come tax time—a combination of the earned income tax credit and other refunds. For many working parents this one check is like hitting the lottery, offering several months’ wages as well as the hope of investing in a better future. Drawing on interviews with 115 families, the authors look at how parents plan to use this annual cash windfall to build up savings, go back to school, and send their kids to college. However, these dreams of upward mobility are often dashed by the difficulty of trying to get by on meager wages. In accessible and engaging prose, It’s Not Like I’m Poor examines the costs and benefits of the new work-based safety net, suggesting ways to augment its strengths so that more of the working poor can realize the promise of a middle-class life.

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.

mobility - CPI Affiliates

Hiroshi Ishida's picture Hiroshi Ishida Professor of Sociology, Institute of Social Sciences
University of Tokyo
Ineke Maas's picture Ineke Maas Associate Professor of Sociology; Professor and Chair, Department of Sociology, VU University Amsterdam
Utrecht University
Ira I. Katznelson's picture Ira I. Katznelson Ruggles Professor of Political Science and History
Columbia University
Jan O. Jonsson's picture Jan O. Jonsson Official Fellow of Nuffield College, Oxford University
Oxford University
Jennie Brand Professor of Sociology
UCLA

Pages

Mobility - Other Research

Title Author Media
Developments in the Measurement of Subjective Well-Being Daniel Kahneman and Alan Krueger

Developments in the Measurement of Subjective Well-Being

Author: Daniel Kahneman and Alan Krueger
Publisher:
Date:
Classes in Contemporary Capitalism Nicos Poulantzas

Classes in Contemporary Capitalism

Author: Nicos Poulantzas
Publisher: Schocken Books
Date:
Labor and Monopoly Capital: The Degradation of Work in the Twentieth Century Harry Braverman

Labor and Monopoly Capital: The Degradation of Work in the Twentieth Century

Author: Harry Braverman
Publisher: Monthly Review Press
Date:
Structural Determinants of Men's and Women's Personal Networks Moore, Gwen

Structural Determinants of Men's and Women's Personal Networks

Author: Moore, Gwen
Publisher: American Sociological Review
Date:
The Social Stratification of Theatre, Dance, and Cinema Attendance Tak Wing Chan and John H. Goldthorpe

The Social Stratification of Theatre, Dance, and Cinema Attendance

Author: Tak Wing Chan and John H. Goldthorpe
Publisher: Routledge
Date:

In current sociological literature the relationship between social inequality and patterns of cultural taste and consumption is the subject of a large and complex debate. In this paper the primary aim is to examine, in the light of empirical results from a research project in which the authors are presently engaged, three main, and rival, positions that have been taken up in this debate, here labelled as the ‘homology', the ‘individualization' and the ‘omnivore–univore' arguments. Elsewhere, we have concentrated on musical consumption in England, and find evidence that is broadly supportive of the omnivore–univore argument. Here we ask whether such findings are confirmed in the case of theatre, dance and cinema attendance. A secondary aim of the paper is to bring to the attention of practitioners in the field of cultural policy and administration the need to address the issues that arise through the use of more powerful methods of data analysis than those often applied in the past. We explain how indicators of theatre, dance and cinema attendance derived from the Arts in England survey of 2001 can be subject to analysis so as to reveal two distinctive patterns of attendance and, in turn, two distinctive types of consumer—who can, it turns out, be regarded as omnivores and univores, even if with some qualification. The former have relatively high rates of attendance at all kinds of the events covered, including musicals and pantomimes as well as plays and ballet, while the latter tend to be cinema-goers only, that is, non-consumers of theatre and dance. A range of measures of social inequality are then introduced into the authors' analyses, including separate measures of social class and social status and also of educational level and income, and it is further shown that, again in conformity with the omnivore–univore argument, these two types of consumer are socially stratified. Omnivores are of generally higher social status than univores and also have usually higher levels of education and higher income than do univores (the latter finding marking the main difference with musical consumption, which was unaffected by income once other stratification variables were controlled). In sum, our results for theatre, dance and cinema attendance lend, overall, further support to the omnivore–univore argument as against its rivals, but also indicate that different aspects of social inequality impact on different forms of cultural consumption in varying degrees and probably through largely separate processes.

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