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Where is the Land of Opportunity? The Geography of Intergenerational Mobility in the United States

Listed author(s):
  • Raj Chetty
  • Nathaniel Hendren
  • Patrick Kline
  • Emmanuel Saez

We use administrative records on the incomes of more than 40 million children and their parents to describe three features of intergenerational mobility in the United States. First, we characterize the joint distribution of parent and child income at the national level. The conditional expectation of child income given parent income is linear in percentile ranks. On average, a 10 percentile increase in parent income is associated with a 3.4 percentile increase in a child's income. Second, intergenerational mobility varies substantially across areas within the U.S. For example, the probability that a child reaches the top quintile of the national income distribution starting from a family in the bottom quintile is 4.4% in Charlotte but 12.9% in San Jose. Third, we explore the factors correlated with upward mobility. High mobility areas have (1) less residential segregation, (2) less income inequality, (3) better primary schools, (4) greater social capital, and (5) greater family stability. While our descriptive analysis does not identify the causal mechanisms that determine upward mobility, the publicly available statistics on intergenerational mobility developed here can facilitate future research on such mechanisms.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w19843.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 19843.

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Date of creation: Jan 2014
Publication status: published as The Quarterly Journal of Economics (2014) 129 (4): 1553-1623.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:19843
Note: CH ED EFG LS PE
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