The myth of upward mobility

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A new study by Michael Hout, a sociology professor at New York University, shows that the occupations of our parents affect our own social status more than we thought.

Hout looked at data from 1994 through 2016 that asked people what their parents did for a living. Their replies were coded to 539 occupational categories, following protocols established by the U.S. Census Bureau, and then given a socioeconomic score ranging from 9 (shoe shiner) to 53 (flight attendant) to 93 (surgeon).

Half the sons and daughters whose parents were in the top tier of occupations now work in occupations that score 76 or higher (on a 100-point scale) while half the sons and daughters of parents from the bottom tier now work in occupations that score 28 or less on that scale. Previous studies used averages instead of medians, so the results were underestimated.

In other words, our upward mobility in life is heavily influenced by our parents’ status. America is not yet the land of equal opportunity. We still have some work to do.

 

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