The Great Escape: Intergenerational Mobility in the United States Since 1940

Nathaniel G. Hilger

NBER Working Paper No. 21217
Issued in May 2015, Revised in April 2016
NBER Program(s):Children, Development of the American Economy, Economics of Education, Labor Studies, Public Economics

I develop a method to estimate intergenerational mobility (IM) in education on large cross-sectional surveys and apply the method to U.S. census data from 1940 to 2000. The method estimates IM directly for children age 26-29 who still live with parents and adjusts for independent children using a procedure that I validate extensively. Estimates imply large post-1940 gains in IM that were (1) driven primarily by large IM gains in the South for both whites and blacks, (2) larger for blacks due to their greater concentration in the South, and (3) driven by high school rather than college enrollment.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w21217

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