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Levels and trends in the income mobility of U.S. families, 1977−2012

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  • Bradbury, Katharine L.

    () (Federal Reserve Bank of Boston)

Abstract

Much of America’s promise is predicated on economic mobility—the possibility that people can move up and down the economic ladder during their lifetimes. Mobility is of particular consequence when economic disparities are increasing. Using panel data and mobility concepts and measures adapted from the literature, this paper examines 10-year income mobility levels and trends for U.S. working-age families during the time span 1977–2012. According to many measures, mobility, already limited in the 1978–1988 decade, declined over ensuing decades: families’ later-year incomes increasingly depended on their starting place, and the distribution of longer-term family incomes became less equal.

Suggested Citation

  • Bradbury, Katharine L., 2016. "Levels and trends in the income mobility of U.S. families, 1977−2012," Working Papers 16-8, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.
  • Handle: RePEc:fip:fedbwp:16-8
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Stephen P. Jenkins & Philippe Van Kerm, 2006. "Trends in income inequality, pro-poor income growth, and income mobility," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 58(3), pages 531-548, July.
    2. Richard V. Burkhauser & Shuaizhang Feng & Stephen P. Jenkins, 2009. "Using The P90-P10 Index To Measure U.S. Inequality Trends With Current Population Survey Data: A View From Inside The Census Bureau Vaults," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 55(1), pages 166-185, March.
    3. Katharine Bradbury & Jane Katz, 2002. "Issues in economics: are lifetime incomes growing more unequal?: looking at new evidence on family income mobility," Regional Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, issue Q 4, pages 2-5.
    4. Philippe Van Kerm, 2004. "What Lies Behind Income Mobility? Reranking and Distributional Change in Belgium, Western Germany and the USA," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 71(281), pages 223-239, May.
    5. Auten, Gerald & Gee, Geoffrey, 2009. "Income Mobility in the United States: New Evidence From Income Tax Data," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association;National Tax Journal, vol. 62(2), pages 301-328, June.
    6. Timm Bönke & Giacomo Corneo & Holger Lüthen, 2015. "Lifetime Earnings Inequality in Germany," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 33(1), pages 171-208.
    7. Robert Carroll & David Joulfaian & Mark Rider, 2006. "Income Mobility: The Recent American Experience," International Center for Public Policy Working Paper Series, at AYSPS, GSU paper0620, International Center for Public Policy, Andrew Young School of Policy Studies, Georgia State University.
    8. Burkhauser, Richard V & Smeeding, Timothy M & Merz, Joachim, 1996. "Relative Inequality and Poverty in Germany and the United States Using Alternative Equivalence Scales," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 42(4), pages 381-400, December.
    9. Lynn Karoly & Gary Burtless, 1995. "Demographic change, rising earnings inequality, and the distribution of personal well-being, 1959–1989," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 32(3), pages 379-405, August.
    10. Wojciech Kopczuk & Emmanuel Saez & Jae Song, 2010. "Earnings Inequality and Mobility in the United States: Evidence from Social Security Data Since 1937," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 125(1), pages 91-128.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    income mobility; income inequality; income distribution;

    JEL classification:

    • D31 - Microeconomics - - Distribution - - - Personal Income and Wealth Distribution
    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement
    • I32 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - Measurement and Analysis of Poverty
    • J15 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Minorities, Races, Indigenous Peoples, and Immigrants; Non-labor Discrimination

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