Cohort Change and Racial Differences in Intergenerational Education and Income Mobility

Bruce Western, Harvard University
Deirdre Bloome, Harvard University

This study examines trends in intergenerational education and income mobility across two recent cohorts in the U.S. Income inequality rose substantially between the early 1980s and the mid 1990s, in part due to rising returns to schooling, and yet few studies have examined changes in the mobility of young adults across these two periods. Perhaps more significantly, African Americans reaching maturity in these two periods faced very different opportunity structures while growing up. This paper studies whether changes in the social and economic organization of American society differentially affected the mobility of black and white men. Using nationally representative data from two cohorts of children and their parents from the National Longitudinal Surveys, this paper finds a significant liberalization of educational mobility for African Americans, while both white and black men's incomes became somewhat more dependent on their parents' incomes.

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Presented in Session 114: Intergenerational Transfers and Social Mobility