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Intergenerational trends in educational and income mobility in the United States of America since the 1960s
ILO
2024.04.08
Concerns about widening inequality have increased attention on the topic of equality of opportunities and intergenerational mobility. We use data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth to analyse how educational and income mobility has evolved in the United States of America.

We show that since the 1980s the probability of moving from the bottom to the top of the education and income distribution (upward mobility) has increased. On the other hand, for children whose parents graduated from college, downward educational and income mobility has decreased. High parental income enables parents to insure against intergenerational income falling, generating a correlation between parents’ and children’s income.

We conclude that American society, by increasing the number of university places, has created opportunities for students from low-income families to achieve higher educational attainments, which have pushed them out of the immobility trap. However, society has also developed an elite, which is wealthy and well educated. For those born to this elite, their family’s status has a strong impact on their welfare and that of future generations.