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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.

Center for Policy Research
426 Eggers Hall