Cohort Change and Racial Differences in Educational and Income Mobility

Policy reforms and rising income inequality transformed educational and economic opportunities for Americans approaching midlife in the 1990s. Rising income inequality may have reduced mobility, as income gaps increased between rich and poor children. Against the effects of rising inequality, Civil Rights reforms may have increased mobility, as opportunities expanded across cohorts of black students and workers. We compare educational and income mobility for two cohorts of black and white men, the older born in the late 1940s and the younger born in the early 1960s. We find that educational mobility increased for black men, but income mobility declined for both races. Economic mobility declined despite unchanged or improved educational mobility because of increased returns to schooling and increased intergenerational income correlations, independent of schooling.