SUMMARY OF KEY FINDINGS FOR THE ECONOMIC MOBILITY OF…
FAMILIES ACROSS GENERATIONS
MEN AND WOMEN
BLACK AND WHITE FAMILIES
Two out of three Americans have higher incomes than their parents, while one third are falling behind.
The current generation of adults is better off than the previous one, because of real income growth, but their
incomes are more unevenly distributed. („Across Generations’ Figure 1)
Compared to their parents, they also live in families that are smaller and where there is more often a second earner.
Women‟s incomes have grown while men‟s have stagnated. („Men & Women’ Figures 1, 2 &3)
It is easier to surpass parental income if one‟s parents are low on the income ladder, because then one‟s income can
increase both because of economic growth and because of moving up the ladder relative to one‟s parents. („Across
Generations’ Figure 2)
The higher the parents‟ family income, the higher the family income of the adult child. („Across Generations’
A child’s economic position on the income ladder in adulthood is heavily influenced by that of his or her
Children born to parents with income on the bottom rung of the ladder are highly likely (42 percent) to also be in
the bottom rung in adulthood, while those born to parents on the top rung are very likely to stay at the top (39
percent). This is known as “stickiness at the ends.” (‘Across Generations’ Figure 4)
The rags to riches story is more often found in Hollywood than in reality – only 6 percent of children born to
parents at the bottom make it to the top of the income distribution. (‘Across Generations’ Figure 4)
Of the two thirds of Americans who make more than their parents’ family income, one half (or 34
percent of all Americans) are upwardly mobile, meaning they also move up at least one rung on the
income ladder ahead of their parents.
One quarter of all Americans (27 percent) are riding the tide – making more than their parents‟ income but
remaining on the same income r