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Dec 28, 2012

Is There Income Mobility in America?

Are the rich getting richer while the poor get poorer? Prof. Sean Mulholland uses several statistical measures and finds that this common perception may not be accurate. A surface-level examination of statistics may indicate that the poor are getting poorer, but a more thorough study shows that there is more income mobility in the United States than many might think. Prof. Mulholland highlights data showing household income by quintile adjusted for inflation and even uses data that follows specific households over time. For example, if we look at households in the bottom quintile in 1987 and follow those individual households until 1996, about 45 percent of them have moved up to a higher quintile. In the next 10-year period, about 40 percent of households move up. Watch the video to see Prof. Mulholland’s findings about income mobility for the top 20 percent of income earners over time and for U.S. households across generations, too. Prof. Mulholland says this data provides “evidence that the possibility of upward mobility in the United States is still very real.”

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