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Your Take: Is Exceptional Upward Mobility in America a Myth?

Fabian Pfeffer, a sociologist at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research, recently studied [3] inequality across generations around the world and discovered that exceptional upward mobility in the U.S. is a myth. His findings are based on data from the ISR’s Panel Study of Income Dynamics, which surveyed a nationally representative sample of 5,000 families in 1968. He found “that parental wealth plays an important role in whether children move up or down the socioeconomic ladder in adulthood. And that parental wealth has an influence above and beyond the three factors that sociologists and economists have traditionally considered in research on social mobility – parental education, income and occupation.” In other words, how much money your parents had was a bigger influence than everything else.

The data is sobering but my question is whether you think that exceptional upward mobility is a myth? I believe that if I study hard and work hard, I can succeed. Now whether that’s “exceptional” upward mobility or just regular upward mobility, I don’t know. I have to believe that there’s an opportunity there for me to better my family and myself.

That said, I don’t believe my networth will ever hit a billion dollars. Is that the definition exceptional upward mobility? Or are a few million enough? Or a few hundred?

Is exceptional upward mobility a myth?