Jump to content
Washington Football Team Logo
Extremeskins

NYT: Upward Mobility Has Not Declined, Study Says


The Sisko

Recommended Posts

Upward Mobility Has Not Declined, Study Says

The odds of moving up — or down — the income ladder in the United States have not changed appreciably in the last 20 years, according to a large new academic study that contradicts politicians in both parties who have claimed that income mobility is falling.....

...The subject of mobility has become politically popular, as Democrats make the case that the affluent are choking off opportunity from others, and Republicans contend that a large, intrusive government is the culprit.

In a December speech at the Center for American Progress, Mr. Obama said, “The problem is that alongside increased inequality, we’ve seen diminished levels of upward mobility in recent years.” Mr. Ryan, the chairman of the House Budget Committee and a Republican vice-presidential nominee, argued in a speech at the Brookings Institution last week that a smarter, smaller government would allow the country to “get back to those days of upward mobility.” The new study focused on a measure known as relative mobility, which tracks where people end up in a national ranking of incomes compared with where they started. If a child ends up in roughly the same place in the income distribution as his or her parents, even if the country as a whole becomes richer, he is not considered to be especially mobile.

But even a second measure — absolute mobility, which examines people’s annual incomes relative to their parents’ — produces a mixed picture.

Absolute mobility has continued to improve in recent decades because incomes have risen; median family income is about 12 percent higher today than in 1980, adjusted for inflation. As a result, most adults today have more income at their disposal than their parents did at the same age.

Yet the growth rate of absolute mobility has slowed, as economic growth has slowed to a disappointing level over the last 15 years. The incomes of middle-class and poor families have slowed even more sharply, because a large share of recent economic gains have gone to a small slice of affluent workers — often described in political shorthand as “the 1 percent.”

Besides Mr. Chetty and Mr. Saez, the other authors of the study are Nathaniel Hendren of Harvard; Patrick Kline of Berkeley; and Nicholas Turner of the Office of Tax Analysis, at the Treasury Department.

As part of the same project, some of the same researchers released a study last summer showing that the odds of escaping poverty in some parts of the United States were much higher than in others.

-Full article at link in title above-

 

OK, so it turns out that upward mobility hasn't gotten worse over the past few decades. Moreover, there is some evidence that the supply siders were at least slightly right that a rising economic tide did raise all boats. Unfortunately, the fly in the ointment is the yachts at the top rose so much that they left the dinghys on the shoreline. It appears that is what everyone outside the 99% has been feeling and interpreting as a lack of upward mobility.

 

The thing that jumped out at me about this though, is the regional nature of the odds of escaping poverty. It seems that the areas where conservatism is strongest, i.e. mostly the south, is also the area with the lowest chances at upward mobility. Therefore it would seem that for all the economic growth that the south crows about, it sure hasn't resulted in much benefit for most of the population. In other words, "yeah, you'll have a job but you won't get paid much and it comes with an overwhelming chance that you're condemning your kids to the same low wage existence you're living". Somehow, that doesn't sound nearly as good as the line the Grand Oligarch's Party has been selling, i.e. "work hard and you'll get ahead as long as you allow us to exempt the rich from paying for any public services or infrastructure."

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think the main problem is that the idea of income mobility has always been something of a myth in this country.

I think the fly in the ointment that NOBODY wants to talk about is that most are not motivated to even try.

In other words, debate about income mobility always has the underlying assumption that those at the bottom are trying to pull themselves up

THAT is where I think we need to shift focus. Easier said than done

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think the fly in the ointment that NOBODY wants to talk about is that most are not motivated to even try.

In other words, debate about income mobility always has the underlying assumption that those at the bottom are trying to pull themselves up

THAT is where I think we need to shift focus. Easier said than done

 

It's a mix of motivation and know-how. The odds are significant that if you are working low or minimum wage you lack key skills, knowledge or resources to improve your lot in life. Or role models.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think the fly in the ointment that NOBODY wants to talk about is that most are not motivated to even try.

In other words, debate about income mobility always has the underlying assumption that those at the bottom are trying to pull themselves up

THAT is where I think we need to shift focus. Easier said than done

There's probably some truth to that Zoony. I think there will always be an underclass of people who are there because they're not interested or perhaps bright enough to do better. However I think one can't discount the way the system provides or removes incentives. If I see virtually nobody around me escaping poverty, there's an assumption and probably even a cultural conditioning that says even if you try, your best outcome is most likely only slightly better and odds are, no better than your parents. Under those circumstances one's outlook on what's worth trying for and the effort you're willing to expend changes a good bit. Think of it as the reverse of the scenario where income taxes are too high on the upper class. If the benefits of additional effort are marginal at some point people conclude the extra effort isn't worth it.

 

So for example, if I'm growing up poor and see one person on public assistance scraping by and another one working and doing little if any better, perhaps even working and on public assistance, where's the incentive to work if that's the best you can expect? Sure you can cut poverty programs but that only hurts those who really can't do any better, again many of whom actually do work. If keeping wages/taxes low results in more lower paying jobs and worse schools and other public infrastructure that helps and encourages people to do better, I see that as a losing proposition.

 

However if we excuse this as just an issue of people not wanting to do any better, then the natural conclusion is that southerners are just lazier than the rest of the country. 

 

I also think there's another dynamic involved though. Businesses in the south seem to be culturally conditioned to pay less and employees seem to be conditioned to accept less, IMO probably because southern culture has historically involved extreme income inequality. No, I have no proof of that, it's purely anecdotal and just my opinion. However in my experience, companies in the south seem to think they're doing you a favor to give you a turkey as a holiday bonus while management is making over a mill a year. Mind you, I'm not talking about minimum wage employees but professional health care workers, many with Master's degrees. When I moved down south, I took approximately a 25% pay cut and much stingier benefits to do the same job. Even after a career change, I see the same attitude from management. I get that supply and demand and other factors play a role but I'm certain, even if only anecdotally that the southern ethos plays a role as well.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

a couple of points....

 

1) the main part of the stdy that people have focused on is the ability to move out of income groups ( from the bottom fifth of teh country, to the top fifth of the country, for instance)   but most of the press glazes over the fact that the size of each of those slices of teh pie has changed dramatically.   If you were in the 2nd fifth of the country in 1930 and remained in the second fifth in 1970... you would have made some serious economic progress.   From 1970 to 2010?  if you stayed in the 2nd fifth, you probably were worse off than you had been in real purchasing power terms.

 

2) there has been some successful pverty reduction programs during the study time period.  They have worked.  But if you take away THEIR impact.... the progress in opportunity for teh bottom 2-fifths is even worse than it appears.  (I think)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

1)  Agree, this study certainly contradicts what I think almost everybody had just been taking for granted. 

 

2)  I observe that the study looks at how things have changed in the last 20 years.  But the feeling I get is that most folks, when they're talking about reduced opportunities, are comparing themselves against their parents.  I wonder what the results would have been, if they'd compared the present against 30 or 50 years ago. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 

However if we excuse this as just an issue of people not wanting to do any better, then the natural conclusion is that southerners are just lazier than the rest of the country. 

 

not trying to discount your post to just focus on this, but I think this is key. 

 

My assumption is not that they're lazy - they're just content.  When I first graduated college I inherited a team of 15 people all who worked for an hourly wage between $8-12/hour.  Every single one of them had been there over 10 years, and not one of them was interested in stepping up to management.  They were perfectly content with where they were.

 

Would they take more if you offered it?  Of course.  Did they want to put in 55 hour weeks to increase from $12/hour to $40k and get on the management track?  No.  Did any of them want to take advantage of the company's tuition reimbursement and go back to school?  No.

 

Were they lazy?  Absolutely not... just, content.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 

The thing that jumped out at me about this though, is the regional nature of the odds of escaping poverty. It seems that the areas where conservatism is strongest, i.e. mostly the south, is also the area with the lowest chances at upward mobility. Therefore it would seem that for all the economic growth that the south crows about, it sure hasn't resulted in much benefit for most of the population. In other words, "yeah, you'll have a job but you won't get paid much and it comes with an overwhelming chance that you're condemning your kids to the same low wage existence you're living". Somehow, that doesn't sound nearly as good as the line the Grand Oligarch's Party has been selling, i.e. "work hard and you'll get ahead as long as you allow us to exempt the rich from paying for any public services or infrastructure."

 

I'd suggest you are mistaken and overlook the costs of living factors.....as well as the lingering impact of welfare policy

 

http://xahlee.org/Periodic_dosage_dir/_p2/race_mapti/ancestry_distribution.png

 

you will note the resemblance of images?

 

I like my and my childrens chances in Texas and think Zoony has the better point.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

"Contrary to popular perception, economic mobility has not changed significantly over time; however, it is consistently lower in the U.S. than in most developed countries."

 

This is key. Also I think were making a mistake just looking at the past 20 years. You need to look back to the 70s and 80s to see the beginnings of this. When accounting for inflation and unemployment, American males make $13,000 less than their counterparts did in 1969. My mother and her brothers and sisters were probably born into the same income bracket as I was, but one of the huge differences is that with a high school diploma two of my aunts were able to go work for the federal government right of out high school and retire making well over $100k a year with a huge pension. My father paid $200 a semester at UMD (late 60s early 70s?). I am 22 years old and technically I was born into the same "class" as they were except I can't get a good job with a high school diploma and UMD is now closer to 10k a semester. I was accepted to Tulane University right out of high school and I was ecstatic but somehow they expected me to pay $50,000 a year for undergrad. It's been a dream of mine to go to law school but now I'd have to go about $150,000 in debt and not even be guaranteed a decent job. It is definitely not just people being comfortable.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

"Contrary to popular perception, economic mobility has not changed significantly over time; however, it is consistently lower in the U.S. than in most developed countries."

 

This is key. Also I think were making a mistake just looking at the past 20 years. You need to look back to the 70s and 80s to see the beginnings of this. When accounting for inflation and unemployment, American males make $13,000 less than their counterparts did in 1969. My mother and her brothers and sisters were probably born into the same income bracket as I was, but one of the huge differences is that with a high school diploma two of my aunts were able to go work for the federal government right of out high school and retire making well over $100k a year with a huge pension. My father paid $200 a semester at UMD (late 60s early 70s?). I am 22 years old and technically I was born into the same "class" as they were except I can't get a good job with a high school diploma and UMD is now closer to 10k a semester. I was accepted to Tulane University right out of high school and I was ecstatic but somehow they expected me to pay $50,000 a year for undergrad. It's been a dream of mine to go to law school but now I'd have to go about $150,000 in debt and not even be guaranteed a decent job. It is definitely not just people being comfortable.

Don't take this response to be an assault.  I am working on my degree at night while working a full-time, well paying job. And these thoughts are both in response to your post as well as to those I encounter each semester.

 

The bolded portions are what I take issue with. You can get a good job out of HS without a college degree. Plumbers and electricians are in short supply. See, in the 60s, 70s & 80s there plenty of Americans willing to go the trade school/apprentice route to make a living. Your 2 aunts got a govt job out of HS paying very little, and work their way to over $100k by the time they retired. You want to go to law school and be "guaranteed" (your words) a decent job when you graduate even though you want to enter a field with a surplus of workers and a shortage of jobs.

 

We have moved to an expected-to-attend-college society. There are literally not enough jobs to satisfy the demands of college graduates. Meanwhile there are blue collar jobs that are begging for people to come work. But since you don't have a degree it is somehow "beneath" a vast majority of folks to do that job. A plumber writes their own path. EVERYBODY needs a plumber. Electricians. Machinists. All of these jobs NEED people.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

"Absolute mobility has continued to improve in recent decades because incomes have risen; median family income is about 12 percent higher today than in 1980, adjusted for inflation. As a result, most adults today have more income at their disposal than their parents did at the same age.

 

Yet the growth rate of absolute mobility has slowed, as economic growth has slowed to a disappointing level over the last 15 years. The incomes of middle-class and poor families have slowed even more sharply, because a large share of recent economic gains have gone to a small slice of affluent workers — often described in political shorthand as “the 1 percent.”"

 

I'll bet a lot more families are now two working parent homes as compared to 1980.

 

And I'll bet at least a good part of the "stall" is that number becoming more stable (and saturated as there aren't many two parent homes left w/o two working parents).

 

And then that doesn't take into the expenses (e.g. child care) and quality of life issues related to having two parents work full time jobs.

 

I'd be curious to see the same data as a function of individuals and not families.

 

And then I'd like to see how that actually relates to income mobility (how many lower class families jumped out of the lower class because they now have two parents working).

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Don't take this response to be an assault.  I am working on my degree at night while working a full-time, well paying job. And these thoughts are both in response to your post as well as to those I encounter each semester.

 

The bolded portions are what I take issue with. You can get a good job out of HS without a college degree. Plumbers and electricians are in short supply. See, in the 60s, 70s & 80s there plenty of Americans willing to go the trade school/apprentice route to make a living. Your 2 aunts got a govt job out of HS paying very little, and work their way to over $100k by the time they retired. You want to go to law school and be "guaranteed" (your words) a decent job when you graduate even though you want to enter a field with a surplus of workers and a shortage of jobs.

 

We have moved to an expected-to-attend-college society. There are literally not enough jobs to satisfy the demands of college graduates. Meanwhile there are blue collar jobs that are begging for people to come work. But since you don't have a degree it is somehow "beneath" a vast majority of folks to do that job. A plumber writes their own path. EVERYBODY needs a plumber. Electricians. Machinists. All of these jobs NEED people.

Partially true. However you're assuming that one can take shop courses, graduate from HS and immediately start work as a plumber or electrician. Maybe they offer advanced courses in some school districts in some parts of the country that will allow for it. However plumbers, electricians, carpenters etc. are highly skilled trades. In most cases I think you need to attend at least a couple of years at a tech or junior college to have a decent shot at actually becoming one. In the case of manufacturing, robotics and computer controlled production techniques also require advanced training typically not offered in HS.

 

I agree that some look down on jobs like that. I don't. However not everyone has the mechanical aptitude. Additionally finding a tech school that doesn't have a waiting list, that offers the courses you need, plus being able to pay for it and having the willingness to take on the risk of student loans when you've been poor all your life are all factors.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Don't take this response to be an assault.  I am working on my degree at night while working a full-time, well paying job. And these thoughts are both in response to your post as well as to those I encounter each semester.

 

The bolded portions are what I take issue with. You can get a good job out of HS without a college degree. Plumbers and electricians are in short supply. See, in the 60s, 70s & 80s there plenty of Americans willing to go the trade school/apprentice route to make a living. Your 2 aunts got a govt job out of HS paying very little, and work their way to over $100k by the time they retired. You want to go to law school and be "guaranteed" (your words) a decent job when you graduate even though you want to enter a field with a surplus of workers and a shortage of jobs.

 

We have moved to an expected-to-attend-college society. There are literally not enough jobs to satisfy the demands of college graduates. Meanwhile there are blue collar jobs that are begging for people to come work. But since you don't have a degree it is somehow "beneath" a vast majority of folks to do that job. A plumber writes their own path. EVERYBODY needs a plumber. Electricians. Machinists. All of these jobs NEED people.

 Haha what jobs? Guess what man there are no votech classes anymore and the electrical, plumbing, elevator unions etc.. are pretty difficult to get into unless you know somebody. EVEN THEN I had a friend who did his apprenticeship for the sheet metal union making decent money and THE DAY he completed his apprenticeship they laid him off because they had to keep the 50 year olds working. You don't think I've looked into different labor unions? 90% of them right now are on hiring freezes or wont take any applications for a year. Seriously my ENTIRE life I was told "if you work hard you can get anywhere, it doesnt matter how much money you have." I've worked hard my whole life and I've been a 4.0 student since middle school. Why the hell shouldn't I expect to go to college? If I was born when you were I would have been able to afford to go anywhere I was accepted. The economy is MUCH harder to navigate for young people today and I think it's ridiculous to say otherwise. 

 

(btw I'm at a local community college at the moment but if I had been born ten years earlier I could have afforded to go to tulane or anywhere else I was accepted.)

 

P.S. I agree that too many people go to college and far too many would be better suited for something else

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Really? seems a sad statement to me....

 

The opportunities are still out there for Americans and aplenty, granted it's getting tougher to start a business in this country over the past few years.

 

As "The American Dream" is now defined, you are more likely to achieve it in Denmark, Sweden, France, and a number of other countries

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Seriously my ENTIRE life I was told "if you work hard you can get anywhere, it doesnt matter how much money you have." I've worked hard my whole life and I've been a 4.0 student since middle school. Why the hell shouldn't I expect to go to college?

 

For the promises our teachers gave

If we worked hard

If we behaved.

So the graduations hang on the wall

But they never really helped us at all

No they never taught us what was real

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think the fly in the ointment that NOBODY wants to talk about is that most are not motivated to even try.

In other words, debate about income mobility always has the underlying assumption that those at the bottom are trying to pull themselves up

THAT is where I think we need to shift focus. Easier said than done

 

Motivation is the wrong word. Entitlement is the correct one. People assume that they deserve a good paying job. People think that since they graduated HS/college, they're "owed"  something.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Really? seems a sad statement to me....

 

The opportunities are still out there for Americans and aplenty, granted it's getting tougher to start a business in this country over the past few years.

If you can endure the cold winters, North Dakota is like a boom town from what I hear.
Link to comment
Share on other sites

It's a mix of motivation and know-how. The odds are significant that if you are working low or minimum wage you lack key skills, knowledge or resources to improve your lot in life. Or role models.

role models do help

A new study from Harvard University on the ability of low-income children to achieve social mobility found that the largest hindrance to moving up the income ladder is being raised by a single parent.

“The strongest and most robust predictor [of social mobility] is the fraction of children with single parents,” the study said.

http://washingtonexaminer.com/harvard-study-single-parents-a-hindrance-to-social-mobility/article/2542841

interesting this map (bottom of the link) resembles the one in the OP

http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2012/dec/25/fathers-disappear-from-households-across-america/?page=all

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think though there is also this myth about blue collar jobs too.  Hardly any listings I see are ever for entry level or even journeyman. Most folks I know who got a good blue collar job out of high school with no experience is because they either had a relative or good friend in the industry who was able to get them into a sport where they could train them when normally if they took in an outsider. 3-5 years experience would be required.

 

I don't think people necessarily have a problem doing blue collar work, starting where they need to start to learn and eventually move up, but I've notice a lot lately that less and less companies want to even want to deal with training the basics, they want to hire people who are already skilled and have 3-5 years experience but they want to pay them like they are a novice who just picked up a hammer that morning.

 

A lot of trade schools are just as expensive if not more than a traditional college. A lot of them are privatized ripoff machines that promise all sorts of things going in and on the way out they give you an almost meaningless certificate.

 

I know the medical industry is dealing with this a lot for online medical assistant schools who teach from a book but offer no hands on experience that is required for the job. You may get the same piece of paper that you'd get at a traditional career college but you have 0% of the experience and all it is does is put folks in debt for life without a job to show for it.

 

This post was all over the place, but I think that "fake" or quasi-education privatized schools are a big problem in that they are taking folks money and not really providing the tools needed to get real work.  They have all sorts of tricks when it comes to fudging the "% of graduates we found jobs for" numbers so it looks appealing to folks just wanting to learn jobs skills.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think that "fake" or quasi-education privatized schools are a big problem in that they are taking folks money and not really providing the tools needed to get real work.  They have all sorts of tricks when it comes to fudging the "% of graduates we found jobs for" numbers so it looks appealing to folks just wanting to learn jobs skills.

There are govt incentives that drive the expansion of those "schools".(which I agree are often oversold)

The best blue-collar option in my view are HS co-ops/vocational programs that partner with employers.(and colleges)

Of course lowering the barriers to entry level hiring,trades and business startup also helps.

It also works in the tech fields.

family and associates help,but providing opportunity (and making them aware of it) to all should be a priority.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Agree, NoCalMike.  If we were to get the infrastructure projects going that are desperately needed, we would need heavy equipment operators (excavators, backhoes, etc.), asphalt engineers, steel & foam,...all kinds of trades that seem to have vanished.   This will lead to work for mechanics, electricians *late night projects that impact day traffic less*...ALL KINDS of jobs that, at one time, were good paying, but hard work jobs.  Win-win. 

I watch way too many prospecting shows.  I wanna run every big machine there is.  :D

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Archived

This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
×
×
  • Create New...