Public Release: 

Intergenerational trends in status mobility

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

A study explores intergenerational social mobility in the United States. The concept of the United States as a land of opportunity is based on the ideal of children attaining a higher socioeconomic status than parents, and having an equal opportunity to rise or fall to any status, irrespective of origins. Metrics of social mobility, such as intergenerational persistence, describe how closely the outcomes of succeeding generations depend on their origins. Michael Hout analyzed intergenerational occupational data from more than 20,000 people surveyed between 1994 and 2016. Plotting the socioeconomic index of adults and their parents, the author found that an increase in parents' status by 1 point was paralleled by an increase of 0.5 points in offsprings' median status, suggesting strong intergenerational persistence. Further, the author found that intergenerational persistence did not significantly change over the years studied, and that overall mobility declined over the same time period. Fewer people born in the 1980s were upwardly mobile than those born in the 1940s, a finding the author attributes to changing economic conditions in which the two generations entered the workforce. According to the author, the slowing of status mobility accentuates inequalities of opportunity in the United States.

Article #18-02508: "Americans' occupational status reflects the status of both of their parents," by Michael Hout.

MEDIA CONTACT: Michael Hout, New York University, NY; e-mail:


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