Sociology Index

Economic Mobility

Economic mobility, measured in income, is the ability of an individual or family to improve or lower their economic status. Economic mobility is also social mobility measured in change in income. Economic mobility is measured by movement in household income.

Mobility may be between generations or within a person lifetime. It may be absolute or relative. Inter-generational mobility compares a person’s income to that of her parents. Intra-generational mobility refers to movement up or down over the course of a working career.

Absolute mobility shows us to what extent do families have improved their incomes over a generation. Relative mobility is specific to individuals without relation to the economy as a whole. Relative mobility is a zero-sum game, absolute mobility is not a zero-sum game.

Though America claims equality of opportunity, a child’s economic position is influenced by that of his or her parents. There was income mobility of individuals within a single generation in the U.S. economy during the 1996-2005 period as more than half of taxpayers moved to a different income quintile over this period.

Though the education system in the United States has been considered effective and equal process for all individuals to improve one’s economic standing, family background continues to play a huge role in determining economic success.