Skills, Mobility and the Glass Floor

Intergenerational mobility measures the extent to which people’s economic status is related to their parents’ income level. In the United States, intergenerational mobility is "sticky at both ends," which means that children born to the poorest and richest parents are more likely to remain poor or rich. Those born into the bottom fifth of the income distribution have a 39% chance of remaining there as adults; a similar ratio holds for those born in the top fifth. A new paper by Richard V. Reeves and Kimberly Howard examines the factors that help and hinder mobility from the top and bottom, and shows that both cognitive and non-cognitive skills strongly predict the chances of being in a higher income household as an adult.


Rich kid = rich adult; poor kid = poor adult;

Children born into a household in the bottom fifth (quintile) of the income distribution have a 39% chance of staying at the bottom as adults. Meanwhile, 37% of top-quintile children end up as top-quintile adults. But when it comes to mobility, skills matter.

Percent chance of moving up or down the family income ladder, by parents' income quintile (among all teens)


Interactive by Christopher Ingraham

Data from The Glass Floor: Downward Mobility, Equality, and Opportunity Hoarding, by Richard V. Reeves and Kimberly Howard.

SUMMARY

A new paper by Richard V. Reeves and Kimberly Howard examines the factors that help and hinder mobility from the top and bottom, and shows that both cognitive and non-cognitive skills strongly predict the chances of being in a higher income household as an adult.