Black-White Differences in Intergenerational Economic Mobility in the United States

By Mazumder, Bhashkar | Economic Perspectives, Spring 2014 | Go to article overview

Black-White Differences in Intergenerational Economic Mobility in the United States


Mazumder, Bhashkar, Economic Perspectives


Introduction and summary

The large and persistent gap in economic status between blacks and whites in the United States has been a topic of considerable interest among social scientists and policymakers for many decades. The historical legacy of slavery and segregation raises the question of how long black Americans are likely to remain a disadvantaged minority. Despite the enormous literature on black-white inequality and its historical trends, few studies have directly measured black-white differences in rates of intergenerational mobility, that is, the ability of families to improve their position in the income distribution from one generation to the next. Estimates of rates of intergenerational mobility by race can provide insight on whether racial differences in the United States are likely to be eliminated and, if so, how long it might take. Furthermore, they might also help inform policymakers as to whether there are lingering racial differences in equality of opportunity and, if so, what the underlying sources for these differences are.

More generally, the relatively low rate of intergenerational mobility in the United States compared with other industrialized countries has been a growing concern to policymakers across the political spectrum. (1) Understanding the sources of racial differences in intergenerational mobility might also shed light on the mechanisms behind the relatively high degree of intergenerational persistence of inequality in the United States.

In this study, I attempt to advance our understanding along several dimensions. First, I use two data sets containing larger intergenerational samples than have been used in the previous literature. One of the data sets matches individuals in the U.S. Census Bureau's Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) to administrative earnings records from the Social Security Administration (SSA). This matched data set provides many more years of data on parents' earnings than most surveys and is likely to be less prone to measurement error, since it is derived from tax records. In addition, the SIPP contains data on key characteristics of the parents, such as wealth levels and marital history. The other data source I use is the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY). In addition to containing a rich array of information as children transition from adolescence to adulthood, such as test scores and personality traits, the NLSY also measures total family income in both generations, giving it an advantage over the SIPP. Using a measure of economic status that includes the income of the spouse avoids selecting only women who participate in the labor market.

Second, I use two types of measures of intergenerational mobility. The first is a set of transition probabilities of relative income status across generations. An example is the probability of moving out of the bottom quintile of the income distribution from one generation to the next. Hertz (2005) was the first to use transition probabilities to examine black-white differences in intergenerational mobility. Using the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID), Hertz found that blacks were less upwardly mobile and more downwardly mobile over generations than whites. Since then, a few other studies mostly using the PSID have found similar results. (2)

The second set of measures, called directional rank mobility, compares whether the rank of a child in the income distribution is higher or lower than their parents' rank in the previous generation. (3) Both types of measures are able to distinguish upward movements from downward ones and can be measured at different points in the income distribution. The directional rank mobility measure is a useful complement to the transition probability because instead of using an arbitrarily chosen cutoff, it uses a natural yardstick, one's own parents' rank. As I discuss later, the directional rank mobility measures also appear to be very robust to many measurement issues. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Black-White Differences in Intergenerational Economic Mobility in the United States
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.