W(h)ither the Middle Class—Changing Intragenerational Mobility in the U.S.

Jonathan Latner, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Timothy M. Smeeding, University of Wisconsin-Madison

The assessment of intragenerational mobility is perhaps one of the fundamental questions in social science research because it is so integral to the democratic notion that one's position in society should not be predetermined by where they started. While that is the subject of much debate, less attention is paid to the characteristics of the movers and stayers as well as the underlying components of stasis and change, both of which we place at the center of the analysis. Using the PSID from 1970 - 2009, we will show that there are not only changes in relative mobility, but also changes in who moves up and down and the contributing factors of those moves. Our results suggest that the changes in the population dynamics of mobility are greater and, we argue, more important than changes in mobility rates.

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Presented in Session 212: Human Capital, Labor Market Outcomes and Inequality