Tim Wise on Social Mobility in the U.S.
“According to the available research, if your father’s wages rank in the top fifth of all income earners in the country, you’ll have nearly a 60 percent chance of surpassing your dad’s status over time. On the other hand, if your father’s earnings fall in the bottom fifth, the odds that you’ll do better than him one day plummet to less than 5 percent. And not only is mobility itself limited, it appears to be diminishing relative to previous generations. As a recent study for the Boston Federal Reserve Bank discovered, among the nation’s poorest families, the percentage that were able to climb simply to the next quintile (still far from well-off), fell from over half in the 1968-78 period, to only 46 percent in the period from 1993-2003. Additionally, the study found that poor families are 10 times more likely to remain poor than to move into the highest income quintile, while those who started out rich are 5 times more likely to remain there, as to fall into either of the lower two quintiles of earners.”