Income Mobility: Up & Down the Economic Ladder
July 29, 2009
Income Mobility: Up & Down the Economic Ladder
People always say they do what they do to make life better not only for themselves, but for the future well-being of their children and hopefully those actions will get passed on to their children. This is my way of thinking of the paying it forward theory; giving all I have, to make the lives of my children better than the one I grew up with and the one I currently live. One of my most favorite quotes about getting ahead in life came from a philosopher and pastor Russell Conwell that is hand-written by my grandmother in a Bible that was given to me some years ago. It goes like this, “For a man to say, I do not want money, is to say, I do not wish to do any good to my fellow men" (Conwell). Everyone wants money, only if it is to do good for your family’s future.
From the rich business professional perched high in their penthouse to the lowly street peddler on the corner, everyone has a story on how and why they ended up in that position. The United States is seen as the place where everyone has the opportunity of the “American Dream”. That includes the opportunity for one's children to grow up and attain to their fullest potential in which they are capable of, and seen for what they are and not what they are born with. It is the opportunity to make individual choices without the restrictions of class, religion, race, or ethnic group.
In this research paper, I will explore the different aspects of income mobility, by looking at some intragenerational and intergenerational mobility issues. Then I will also breakdown and show some of the different economic mobility indicators and how they play an important role on how income mobility is measured.
So, what does income or economic mobility mean? According to Isabel Sawhill of the Brookings Institute:
Economic mobility is the ability of an individual or family to
economic status, in relation to income and social
status, within his or her lifetime or between generations.
Economic mobility is often measured by movement
income quintiles or comparisons are made to the income of an
individual’s parents as a point of reference. The ability to increase
one’s income is closely tied to the idea of the “American
Dream” and being able to advance your economic standing
through hard work and effort. (Sawhill) Basically, it is the concept or theory in that as we get older or our children get older they will surpass the economic achievements of their parents. The concepts of intragenerational and intergenerational mobility are also mentioned quite often when talking about income mobility. Intragenerational mobility involves the movement of one individual’s economic movement up or down the economic ladder in their lifetime. Intergenerational mobility takes a look at the income mobility in reference from parents to their children’s movement along the economic ladder.
From all the different perspectives, everyone can obviously agree that there are income inequalities abound…always have been, always will be…it’s the facts of life. There are the assumptions that everyone can get ahead based on their capabilities and efforts. I have always wondered why one can get so far ahead in life and not have to worry about a thing, while others struggle from minute to minute to survive. How can the “American Dream” be achieved when there is such disparity on income? It seems this question lies within the many mobility factors that are quite simply called economic mobility indicators. These indicators affect each and every one of us and can be broken down into different forms of social, human, and financial capital. Taking the outcomes of ourselves or our children’s, we could quite possibly see how these indicators affect the movement up and down the economic ladder.
Cited: Arrow, Kenneth J. Meritocracy and Economic Inequality . Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2000.
Burt, Ronald S. "Structural Holes." Grusky, David B. and Szonja Szelenyi. The Inequality Reader: Contemporary and Foundational Readings in Race, Class, and Gender. Boulder: Westview Press, 2007. 498-502.
Case, Anne, Darren Lubotsky, and Christina Paxson. 2002. “Economic Status and Health
in Childhood: The Origins of the Gradient.” American Economic Review 92(5): 1308- 1334.
Conwell, Russell H. "Acres of Diamonds". New York: Harper & Brother Publishers, 1915.
Ehrenreich, Barbara. Bait and Switch: The (Futile) Pursuit of the American Dream. New York: Metropolitan Books, 2005.
Reynolds, Alan. Income and Wealth . Westport: Greenwood Press, 2006.
Scott, Janny. "Life at the Top In America Isn 't Just Better, It 's Longer." Grusky, David B. and Szonja Szelenyi. The Inequality Reader: Contemporary and Foundational Readings in Race, Class, and Gender. Boulder: Westview Press, 2007. 503-510.
Vortruba-Drzal, Elizabeth. 2003. “Income Changes and Cognitive Stimulation in Young
Children’s Home Learning Environment.” Journal of Marriage and Family 65(2): 341- 355.
Please join StudyMode to read the full document