Although it may not seem like it at first blush, given the apparently modest correlations, the socioeconomic figures that I blogged about earlier largely agree with the published data on economic mobility.
They are measuring income (or earnings) whereas I am measuring with the ELS SES index (which is an equally weighted average of the respondents own earnings as of 2011, educational attainment, and occupational prestige), but the systematic income differences between classes (however measured) are almost certainly virtually fully mediated by this more comprehensive SES measure.
ELS data, students 2011 SES by 2002 SES of parents
The correlation between parent SES and child SES is 0.35. This may not sound like much, but if you bin child SES and parent SES into quintiles the mobility estimates are very similar to the widely publicized economic mobility estimates.
The average person born at the top of the SES distribution has little chance of ending up at the bottom and vice versa, but there is clearly a great deal of mobility that happens amongst less extreme groupings.
[Note: I didn’t correct these figures for oversampling, so I won’t claim they’re a perfect representation of reality, but they are generally pretty close in practice and they still are good for illustrative purposes.]
Mobility delta (child SES – parent SES) by parent SES
On average, as compared to their parents, high SES people are downward mobile and low SES people are upward mobile. This may seem counter-intuitive to some, but this makes sense because r < 1, i.e., there is non-trivial mobility, and this must be true for there to be meaningful relative mobility. Of course, just because there is mobility doesn’t imply that all people have an equal chance of ending up in any place in the SES distribution.
As I mentioned in my last post, there are other differences between groups besides just propensity to end up in particular SES bins and many of these differences are highly predictive of mobility — see test scores, HS GPA, etc. Indeed, they almost fully mediate outcomes, so talking in terms of “mobility” here can be a bit misleading because relative starting position (parent SES) tells you relatively little about what is likely once you have better information (e.g., test scores, HS GPA, etc).
Read More »