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.

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.

Family, the Lifecourse, and the Great Recession S. Philip Morgan, Erin Cumberworth, Christopher Wimer

Family, the Lifecourse, and the Great Recession

Author: S. Philip Morgan, Erin Cumberworth, Christopher Wimer
Publisher:
Date: 10/2012

The family is an important setting within which the Great Recession can exert its influence. Although the downturn directly affected many workers by reducing their earnings or forcing them into unemployment, it affected others indirectly by changing their living arrangements or family life. Further, the ways in which families are formed or broken up may be affected by the Great Recession, as it can alter the perceived costs and benefits of various family-relevant behaviors. Amid the turmoil and economic upheaval in the wider economy, individuals and families go about their lives, deciding to get married, suffering through breakups and divorces, planning families, and sorting out their living arrangements. The recession could have major effects on all of these family processes.

Income, Wealth and Debt and the Great Recession Timothy Smeeding

Income, Wealth and Debt and the Great Recession

Author: Timothy Smeeding
Publisher:
Date: 10/2012

The Great Depression is often cast as the beginning of the end for the late Gilded Age. Because it brought on the institutional reforms of the New Deal, it led to dramatic reductions in income inequality and set the stage for a long period of comparatively low inequality. The purpose of this recession brief is to ask whether the Great Recession, like the Great Depression, is likewise shaping up as a compressive event that will reverse some of the run-up in inequality of the so-called New Gilded Age. This question can be taken on by examining recent and long-term trends in wealth inequality, income inequality, median incomes, and debt.

mobility - CPI Affiliates

Mikk Titma's picture Mikk Titma Senior Research Scholar
Stanford University
Anthony Heath's picture Anthony Heath Emeritus Professor of Sociology, Fellow of Nuffield College
University of Oxford
Moshe Semyonov's picture Moshe Semyonov Bernard and Audre Rapoport Chair Professor of the Sociology of Labor, Tel Aviv University; Professor of Sociology, University of Illinois at Chicago
University of Illinois at Chicago and Tel Aviv University
Dalton Conley's picture Dalton Conley Henry Putnam University Professor of Sociology; Research Associate, National Bureau of Economic Research
Princeton University
Nan Dirk De Graaf's picture Nan Dirk De Graaf Professor and Official Fellow, Department of Sociology, Nuffield College
University of Oxford

Pages

Mobility - Other Research

Title Author Media
The Second Shift: Working Parents and the Revolution at Home Hochschild, Arlie

The Second Shift: Working Parents and the Revolution at Home

Author: Hochschild, Arlie
Publisher: Viking
Date:
Uneven Tides: Rising Inequality in America

Uneven Tides: Rising Inequality in America

Author:
Publisher: Russell Sage Foundation
Date:
Classes in Contemporary Capitalism Nicos Poulantzas

Classes in Contemporary Capitalism

Author: Nicos Poulantzas
Publisher: Schocken Books
Date:
Losers and Winners: The Financial Consequences of Separation and Divorce for Men Patricia A. McManus and Thomas A. DiPrete

Losers and Winners: The Financial Consequences of Separation and Divorce for Men

Author: Patricia A. McManus and Thomas A. DiPrete
Publisher: American Sociological Review
Date:
Investment in Human Capital and Personal Income Distribution Mincer, Jacob.

Investment in Human Capital and Personal Income Distribution

Author: Mincer, Jacob.
Publisher: Journal of Political Economy
Date:

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