Research ArticlesEconomics

The fading American dream: Trends in absolute income mobility since 1940

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Science  28 Apr 2017:
Vol. 356, Issue 6336, pp. 398-406
DOI: 10.1126/science.aal4617

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    How do the impacts of the Great Depression weigh into your analysis? Figure 2 in particular raises a number of questions as to whether depressed earnings during the 1930s account for a large portion of this shift over time and would therefor impact the likelihood and ability for later cohorts to out-earn their parents. Acknowledging that incomes fell by 40-60% from 1929-1939 ( we should expect that the incomes of the parents of the 1940 cohort were substantially impacted by the depression and that the income distribution of the parents of this cohort was dramatically narrowed and shifted leftward. Therefore, looking at the first time that a parent's income trajectory would have been independent of the depression and the first half of WW2 would seem to be a valuable check on the trend. With wages having risen substantially over the latter half of the war and back towards a normalized level, a person entering the labor force in 1943/1944 would be the logical place to start. Assuming that said person was 16 and that the average parent was about 22, the first normalized cohort would have been the children born in about 1950 or even slightly later if one uses a postwar starting point, say 1947, for normalized parent incomes. This shift would remove more than half of the decline in mobility. How wou...

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    Competing Interests: None declared.

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