Social Mobility Lab


Exploring patterns and drivers of social mobility using linked administrative and survey data


The United States is supposed to be a “land of opportunity” in which a child’s well-being, career opportunities, and future income are not determined by how well-off their parents are. The purpose of CPI’s Social Mobility Lab is to understand how well this commitment to equal opportunity is being met – including for different racial and ethnic groups, for children born into different types of neighborhoods, and for immigrants to the U.S.

Using large linked administrative datasets, CPI is building new social mobility models that paint a comprehensive “mobility portrait” of people’s lives. This research examines different types of mobility simultaneously, such as income, earnings, wealth, and occupation. Some questions we are exploring include how likely children are to enter the same specific occupation as their parents (relating to the “nepo-babies” phenomenon) – as well as how much conventional studies of racial-ethnic differences in mobility may conceal substantial heterogeneity within broad racial-ethnic groups. Working in collaboration with economists, sociologists, and statisticians across the country, this research ultimately aims to provide a more comprehensive set of mobility measures than has been possible up to now.

CPI also partners with Opportunity Insights, the Census Bureau, and many leading scholars (including Raj Chetty, John Friedman, Katie Genadek, and others) in their ongoing work to develop the American Opportunity Study (AOS). The AOS, which is a large-scale panel built by linking Decennial Census and tax data from 1960 to the present day, will allow for new studies of mobility, new studies of social and demographic processes, and new capacities to carry out quasi-experimental analyses of social programs over the last half-century.


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Social Mobility Lab
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