Eighty-four percent of Americans — and 93 percent of those in the bottom quintile — earn more than their parents in inflation-adjusted dollars, concludes a new Pew report, Pursuing the American Dream: Economic Mobility Across Generations.
Yet 43 percent of people who start in the bottom quintile end up there, notes Education Gadfly. Nearly three-quarters remain in the bottom 40 percent.
A black-white mobility achievement gap is present as well: Half of blacks who were raised on the wealth ladder’s bottom rung stay there as adults, compared to a third of whites. The “stickiness at the ends” phenomenon affects America’s wealthiest as well: Sixty-six percent of those with parents in the top quintile stayed among the elite (earning at least $164,000 a year). As Pew explains (and Charles Murray concurs), this “stickiness” is partially caused by marriage patterns. High earners are forming unions with others in their quintile, further bumping their family wealth and income.
For those raised at the bottom of the family income ladder, college provides a way up: Only 10 percent of college graduates — and 47 percent of those without a degree — end up at the bottom rung.