Family Characteristics and Macroeconomic Factors in U.S. Intragenerational Family Income Mobility, 1978–2014 Family Characteristics and Macroeconomic Factors in U.S. Intragenerational Family Income Mobility, 1978–2014

A family’s position in the income distribution and the degree to which it can improve that position during a period of years (intragenerational mobility) are critical determinants of the family’s current well-being and the prospects for the children. Likewise, a wealthy family’s ability to retain a top position in the income distribution is central to its well-being. Using data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics that tracks individual families’ incomes, this paper investigates the relationships of family characteristics and macroeconomic influences to moves up and down the income distribution during overlapping 10-year periods from 1978 through 2014. The family characteristics examined include levels of work behavior, family structure, and race and educational attainment of the family head and spouse, if there is one; the macroeconomic influences include GDP growth and inflation. This paper also studies whether the importance of these factors has changed since the 1980s.

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