Research and Data

Reports, data, and stories on upward mobility to help inform the growing conversation and inspire new strategies and new thinking.


Stanford Equality of Opportunity Project

Raj Chetty, Stanford; John Friedman, Brown; Nathan Hendren, Harvard

Data on 30 million college students were used to construct mobility report cards for each college in America. This analysis sheds light on how colleges shape children's prospects of upward mobility and how more children can climb the income ladder through higher education.

Fading Promise: Millennial Prospects in the Golden State

Joel Kotkin and Wendell Cox - Chapman University Center for Demographics and Policy, 2017

"While homeownership rates for California baby boomers are close to the national average, only one in four Californians aged 25 to 34 own a home, the third-worst homeownership rate among states, the report said."


Lifetime Incomes in the United States over Six Decades

Fatih Guvenen, Greg Kaplan, Jae Song, and Justin Weidner - National Bureau of Economic Research

Researchers have answered a big question about the decline of the middle class (Washington Post): This study by the National Bureau of Economic Research shows that more unequal incomes are not just a result of a widening gap between younger and older workers. Even among older workers, typical incomes have been falling while the wealthiest have been enjoying more of the economy’s gains. Poorer workers — who tend to be younger — will earn more as they get older, but they are not likely to earn enough to make up the difference.

Working Class Has the Blues, and Elites Lack Answers (Bloomberg): Income inequality has increased substantially across the developed world, and in the U.S. more than most. One of the tools used to measure income inequality -- the Gini coefficient, which is higher when the distribution of income is less equal -- has risen in the U.S. since the 1970s. Other research shows that economic mobility and opportunity are declining as well -- most Americans are making less than their parents did, and those in the lower ends of the distribution tend to be stuck there.


California Housing Affordability Report

California Association of Realtors

Only 1 in 3 can afford median-priced California home; situation better in Sacramento (Sacramento Bee): "Only 32 percent of California households could afford to purchase the $496,620 median-priced Golden State home...That marked the 16th consecutive quarter that the index has been below 40 percent and is near the mid-2008 low level of 29 percent."


Poorer than their parents? A new perspective on income inequality

Richard Dobbs, Anu Madgavkar, James Manyika, Jonathan Woetzel, Jacques Bughin, Eric Labaye, and Pranav Kashyap, McKinsey Global Institute, 2016

"The real incomes of about two-thirds of households in 25 advanced economies were flat or fell between 2005 and 2014. Without action, this phenomenon could have corrosive economic and social consequences."


Just Growth: Inclusion and Prosperity in America’s Metropolitan Regions

Chris Benner and Manuel Pastor, Routledge; 1st edition, 2012

This book offers insights for regional leaders and analysts of metropolitan areas, as the authors draw on a broader set of conclusions about how to scale up efforts to address a U.S. economy still seeking to recover from economic crisis and ameliorate distributional divisions.


Equity, Growth, and Community: What the Nation Can Learn From America’s Metropolitan Regions

Chris Benner and Manuel Pastor, University of California Press, 2015

Benner and Pastor examine how inequality stunts economic growth and how bringing together equity and growth requires concerted local action. Combining data, case studies, and emerging narratives on multi-sector collaborations in 11 metro regions, the book offers a powerful prescription not just for metros but for our national challenges of slow job growth, rising economic inequality, and sharp political polarization.


The Rising Costs of U.S. Income Inequality

Laura Tyson - Berkeley Haas Business and Public Policy Group Institute for Business & Social Impact

"The U.S. political system is increasingly dominated by money. This is a clear sign that income inequality in the U.S. has risen to levels that threaten not only the economy’s growth, but also the health of its democracy."



Housing Constrains and Spacial Misallocation

Chang-Tai Hsieh - University of Chicago and NBER; Enrico Moretti - University of California, Berkeley and NBER

"We quantify the amount of spatial misallocation of labor across US cities and its aggregate costs. Misallocation arises because high productivity cities like New York and the San Francisco Bay Area have adopted stringent restrictions to new housing supply, effectively limiting the number of workers who have access to such high productivity. Using a spatial equilibrium model and data from 220 metropolitan areas we find that these constraints lowered aggregate US growth by more than 50% from 1964 to 2009."

Berkeley Study Argues That America Could Have Massive Economic Growth If It Had More Housing (Greg Feresentein, Medium): "The problem is that this decentralized network of suburban hawks is creating problems for the entire nation. It’s not just economic growth, either: another study from MIT suggests that increases in housing costs is the single greatest contributor to economic inequality in America."

CA's Most Unequal Cities – Tableau


Interactive map of Californian’s cities with the greatest inequality, creating using income data 


Where is the Land of Opportunity? The Geography of Intergenerational Mobility in the United States

Raj Chetty, Nathaniel Hendren, Patrick Kline, and Emmanuel Saez, Equal of Opportunity Project, 2017 

Intergenerational mobility is strongly correlated with five factors: (1) residential segregation, (2) income inequality, (3) school quality, (4) social capital, and (5) family structure.


Income Inequality and the Safety Net in California

Sarah Bohn, Caroline Danielson, Public Policy Institute of California, 2016

"Recent research finds a correlation between income inequality in a region and the upward mobility of its children. Low-income children who grew up in areas with higher income inequality have, on average, lower incomes as adults than otherwise similar children who grew up in regions with less income inequality. In this and other ways, the consequences of growing income inequality may play out over generations, highlighting the need for policies that take this long-range view into account." 


Economic Mobility – Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality

Raj Chetty, Nathaniel Hendren, Patrick Kline, and Emmanuel Saez, The Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality, 2016

Place matters in enabling intergenerational mobility. Hence it may be effective to tackle social mobility at the community level. If we can make every city in America have mobility rates like San Jose or Salt Lake City, the United States would become one of the most upwardly mobile countries in the world. 


Distributional National Accounts: Methods and Estimates for the United States

Thomas Piketty, Emmanuel Saez, Gabriel Zucman - National Bureau of Economic Research

"Average pre-tax national income per adult has increased 60% since 1980, but we find that it has stagnated for the bottom 50% of the distribution at about $16,000 a year. The pre-tax income of the middle class—adults between the median and the 90th percentile—has grown 40% since 1980, faster than what tax and survey data suggest, due in particular to the rise of tax-exempt fringe benefits. Income has boomed at the top: in 1980, top 1% adults earned on average 27 times more than bottom 50% adults, while they earn 81 times more today."

New Research Charts Surging Income Inequality in the United States (UC Berkeley News, 2016): “The top 1 percent income share is now almost twice as large as the bottom 50 percent share, a group that is by definition 50 times more numerous,” write Saez, Zucman and Piketty, who are co-directors of the World Wealth and Income Database.

To address the inequities they are documenting through their combination of tax, survey and national account data that captures 100 percent of national income, the economists suggest that officials consider improving education and access to skills, reforming labor market institutions to boost workers’ bargaining power, and instituting a higher minimum wage."


The Fading American Dream: Trends in Absolute Income Mobility Since 1940

Raj Chetty, David Grusky, Maximilian Hell, Nathaniel Hendren,Robert Manduca, Jimmy Narang, National Bureau of Economic Research, 2016 

The authors find that rates of absolute mobility have fallen from approximately 90 percent for children born in 1940 to 50 percent for children born in the 1980s. In counterfactual simulations, they find that increasing GDP growth rates alone cannot restore absolute mobility to the rates experienced by children born in the 1940s. To make growth across income groups as equal as that experienced by the 1940 birth cohort would reverse more than 70 percent of the decline in mobility.


California's Upward Mobility Machine

David Leonhardt, The New York Times, 2015

The University of California took deliberate steps to attract students of modest means. It kept tuition low and did far more to recruit community-college transfers than most elite state universities. The transfer pipeline is crucial, because many highly qualified low-income students— unaware of how much financial aid is available at some four-year colleges — first enroll at a local community college, where published tuition tends to be low.


No Ordinary Disruption: The Four Global Forces Breaking All the Trends

Richard Dobbs, James Manyika, Jonathan Woetzel, McKinsey Global Institute

The world not only feels different. The data tell us it is different. Based on years of research by the directors of the McKinsey Global Institute, No Ordinary Disruption: The Four Forces Breaking All the Trends is a timely and important analysis of how we need to reset our intuition as a result of four forces colliding and transforming the global economy: the rise of emerging markets, the accelerating impact of technology on the natural forces of market competition, an aging world population, and accelerating flows of trade, capital, people, and data.