Economic mobility gains may be due to dual-income families

Published: Tuesday, Feb. 26 2013 3:40 p.m. MST

The Pew data in this new interactive graphic is looking at what is called absolute mobility — how the general improvement in the economy has raised just about everybody's income relative to their parents' — even when accounting for inflation and family size.

"It is really important to bear in mind that interpreting these findings requires a certain amount of care and context," Elliott said.

There have been many broader changes in income and wealth over the last 40 years, she said. "We know that those raised in the bottom, three out of four have $10,000 more in income than their parents did. But what does that income get you on the ladder?"

Even if a person is making $10,000 more in inflation-adjusted dollars, it isn't necessarily enough to guarantee they will rise to the next highest fifth in income.

"It is also important to consider what does that increase of $10,000 buy you given today's incomes and constraints in the economic climate generally," Elliott said.

The data also doesn't show what percentage of that income comes from welfare, Social Security and so forth.

Other findings from the new interactive tool include how 61 percent of adult children with a college degree exceeded their parents' income by at least $25,000. Only 42 percent of adult children without a degree exceeded their parents' income by that amount. If people in the bottom fifth of income acquire a college degree, 27 percent are making $50,000 or more than their parents.

The idea of his two children growing up and making more income than him doesn't bother Argyle, it is part of the American Dream.

"I would prefer for them to do better than I do," he said. "I have no problem with them being able to surpass where I am at. As long as they are responsible with it."

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