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Wiemers Study Examines Decline in Long-Term Earnings Mobility in the U.S.

Jul 20, 2022

Emily Wiemers

Emily Wiemers

The growth in cross-sectional inequality has sparked concern about its consequences for long-run economic outcomes. We use survey-linked administrative data to estimate trends in long-term earnings mobility in the U.S. since 1980 focusing on differential trends by gender, education, and race-ethnicity.

We find that long-term earnings mobility has declined since the 1980s. Declines in upward mobility have occurred for both men and women, reversing a trend prior to 1980 of increasing long-run mobility for women. The largest declines in mobility are for women and college-educated workers, which is driven both by increases in the rank of earnings early in prime earning years and growing persistence in ranks across the earnings distribution.