Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Exceptional upward mobility in the US is a myth, international studies show

Date:
September 5, 2012
Source:
University of Michigan
Summary:
The rhetoric is relentless: America is a place of unparalleled opportunity, where hard work and determination can propel a child out of humble beginnings into the White House, or at least a mansion on a hill. But the reality is very different, according to a researcher who is studying inequality across generations around the world.

The rhetoric is relentless: America is a place of unparalleled opportunity, where hard work and determination can propel a child out of humble beginnings into the White House, or at least a mansion on a hill.

But the reality is very different, according to a University of Michigan researcher who is studying inequality across generations around the world.

"Especially in the United States, people underestimate the extent to which your destiny is linked to your background," says Fabian Pfeffer, a sociologist at the U-M Institute for Social Research (ISR). Pfeffer is the organizer of an international conference on inequality across multiple generations being held September 13 and 14 in Ann Arbor.

"Research shows that it's really a myth that the U.S. is a land of exceptional social mobility."

Pfeffer's own research illustrates this point based on data on two generations of families in the U.S. and a comparison of his findings to similar data from Germany and Sweden. The U.S. data come from the ISR Panel Study of Income Dynamics, a survey of a nationally representative sample that started with 5,000 U.S. families in 1968.

He found that parental wealth plays an important role in whether children move up or down the socioeconomic ladder in adulthood. And that parental wealth has an influence above and beyond the three factors that sociologists and economists have traditionally considered in research on social mobility -- parental education, income and occupation.

"Wealth not only fulfills a purchasing function, allowing families to buy homes in good neighborhoods and send their children to costly schools and colleges, for example, but it also has an insurance function, offering a sort of private safety net that gives children a very different set of choices as they enter the adult world," Pfeffer says.

"Despite the widespread belief that the U.S. provides exceptional opportunities for upward mobility, these data show that parental wealth has an important role in shielding offspring from downward mobility and sustaining their upward mobility in the U.S. no less than in countries like Germany and Sweden, where parental wealth also serves as a private safety net that not even the more generous European public programs and social services seem to provide."

Pfeffer is now expanding the number of countries he is analyzing, and is also examining the influence of grandparents' wealth.

Meanwhile, at the conference next week in Ann Arbor, participants from universities in Singapore, Sweden, Japan, Germany, Great Britain, South Africa, and across the U.S. will share their on-going research on different facets of intergenerational influences on inequality, from the timing of childbirth over generations to the impact grandparents, uncles and aunts have on educational attainment.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Michigan. The original article was written by Diane Swanbrow. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Pfeffer, Fabian T., and Martin Hδllsten. Mobility Regimes and Parental Wealth: The United States, Germany, and Sweden in Comparison. PSC Research Report, No. 12-766. July 2012

Cite This Page:

University of Michigan. "Exceptional upward mobility in the US is a myth, international studies show." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 5 September 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/09/120905141920.htm>.
University of Michigan. (2012, September 5). Exceptional upward mobility in the US is a myth, international studies show. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 17, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/09/120905141920.htm
University of Michigan. "Exceptional upward mobility in the US is a myth, international studies show." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/09/120905141920.htm (accessed April 17, 2014).

Share This



More Science & Society News

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Are School Dress Codes Too Strict?

Are School Dress Codes Too Strict?

AP (Apr. 16, 2014) — Pushing the limits on style and self-expression is a rite of passage for teens and even younger kids. How far should schools go with their dress codes? The courts have sided with schools in an era when school safety is paramount. (April 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Could Even Casual Marijuana Use Alter Your Brain?

Could Even Casual Marijuana Use Alter Your Brain?

Newsy (Apr. 16, 2014) — A new study conducted by researchers at Northwestern and Harvard suggests even casual marijuana use can alter your brain. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Thousands Of Vials Of SARS Virus Go Missing

Thousands Of Vials Of SARS Virus Go Missing

Newsy (Apr. 16, 2014) — A research institute in Paris somehow misplaced more than 2,000 vials of the deadly SARS virus. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
NYPD Ends Muslim Surveillance Program

NYPD Ends Muslim Surveillance Program

AP (Apr. 15, 2014) — The New York City Police Department has ended a program that once kept tabs on the city's muslim population. (April 15) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins