Wednesday, July 11, 2012
[From The Pew Charitable Trusts, Pursuing the American Dream: Economic Mobility Across Generations:]
In absolute terms, intergenerational income mobility looks pretty good. Five out of every six Americans have family incomes that are higher than their own respective parents’ incomes were:Pew
The country looks far less mobile when you look at relative income classes, though. Americans born into the very top or bottom quintiles were likely to remain there as adults:
... The wealth numbers show somewhat less mobility, at least in absolute terms.Only half of Americans are wealthier than their parents were. What’s more, children born into the top wealth quintile were least likely to surpass their parents’ affluence (and their parents’ incomes, too, as you may have noticed from the earlier chart):Pew
Nearly three-quarters of people born into the bottom of the wealth distribution ended up richer than their parents were, whereas only one-quarter of people born into the very top of the wealth distribution accumulated a bigger fortune than their parents had. ...
As with incomes, relative mobility in the wealth distribution is also somewhat discouraging. The class you were born into is pretty “sticky,” especially if you were very poor or very rich.
Of Americans born into the bottom quintile of wealth, 41% remain there in adulthood, double the share you would expect if wealth were randomly assigned. Likewise, 41% of Americans born into the top quintile of wealth remain there as adults. Just 7% of the richest Americans topple all the way to the bottom.
[T]he typical American in each income quintile earned more than his counterpart from a generation earlier.Pew
The median person in the panel today earns a family income of $51,177, whereas the comparable figure from a generation ago was $27,036 after adjusting for inflation. You can see similar bumps upward for the typical family in other quintiles, and that the very highest earners got the biggest raises.
The median family in the top quintile earned $49,075 a generation ago, and $111,115 today, an increase of 126% in inflation-adjusted terms. That’s a much bigger raise, no doubt, but at least every income strata saw its earnings rise.
The trend for the distribution of wealth looks somewhat different.
Unlike with income, there were not across-the-board gains for wealth. The median person in the poorest quintile has a family net worth that is 63% less than that of his counterpart a generation ago: $2,748, versus $7,439.