The Corner

Scott Winship on Income Mobility: Good News Edition

This is a great interview of Brookings Institution’s Scott Winship by Nick Gillespie of Reason TV about income mobility in America. As Winship’s work demonstrates, mobility is not declining in spite of evidence that income inequality is indeed growing (especially at the top end of the income distribution). 

As he wrote a few months ago in an article in National Review:

Using . . . two National Longitudinal Survey data sets, I can compare children born between 1962 and 1964 to children born between 1980 and 1982, observing their parents’ incomes when they were 14 to 16 and their own incomes twelve years later when they were 26 to 28.

In contrast to [President Obama’s and other’s claims] of declining mobility, I found that upward mobility from poverty to the middle class rose from 51 percent to 57 percent between the early-’60s cohorts and the early-’80s ones. Rather than assert that mobility has increased, I want to simply say — at this stage of my research (which is ongoing) — that it has not declined.

If I include households that reported negative or no income, the rise in upward mobility I find is only from 51 percent to 53 percent, which is not a statistically meaningful increase. But the data provide absolutely no evidence that economic mobility declined, whereas the president said it had fallen by ten percentage points.

This should be cause for celebration. It should also give us an incentive to look into what can or should be done to improve mobility for those Americans — low-income males — who are actually losing ground, instead of fighting a pointless class war that is unlikely to help the people at the bottom of the income distribution. On that point, Tyler Cowen and I have a chapter in The Occupy Handbook, in which we argue that those really concerned about the well-being of low-income Americans should give serious thought to reforming K–12 educatio — and in particular breaking its state monopoly — rather than focusing all the attention on growing income inequality.

Veronique de Rugy — Veronique de Rugy is a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University.

Most Popular

U.S.

The Gun-Control Debate Could Break America

Last night, the nation witnessed what looked a lot like an extended version of the famous “two minutes hate” from George Orwell’s novel 1984. During a CNN town hall on gun control, a furious crowd of Americans jeered at two conservatives, Marco Rubio and Dana Loesch, who stood in defense of the Second ... Read More
Film & TV

Why We Can’t Have Wakanda

SPOILERS AHEAD Black Panther is a really good movie that lives up to the hype in just about every way. Surely someone at Marvel Studios had an early doubt, reading the script and thinking: “Wait, we’re going to have hundreds of African warriors in brightly colored tribal garb, using ancient weapons, ... Read More
Law & the Courts

Obstruction Confusions

In his Lawfare critique of one of my several columns about the purported obstruction case against President Trump, Gabriel Schoenfeld loses me — as I suspect he will lose others — when he says of himself, “I do not think I am Trump-deranged.” Gabe graciously expresses fondness for me, and the feeling is ... Read More
Politics & Policy

Students’ Anti-Gun Views

Are children innocents or are they leaders? Are teenagers fully autonomous decision-makers, or are they lumps of mental clay, still being molded by unfolding brain development? The Left seems to have a particularly hard time deciding these days. Take, for example, the high-school students from Parkland, ... Read More