There is nothing inevitable about low rates of economic mobility, by Miles Corak for Free Exchange: This week's Free exchange column discusses new research on rates of inter-generational social mobility (summary here). We are inviting experts in the field to comment on the piece and related research. Up first is Miles Corak...
[I]t seems to me that the series of papers by Long and Ferrie also suggest there is nothing inevitable about long-term persistence [in low economic mobility]. When labor markets become more dynamic, when public policy changes—particularly when it invests more broadly in the health, education and other forms of human capital of children—and when as a result families become more endowed with both monetary and non-monetary resources from which their children can benefit, then mobility will increase.
The real lesson from the historical research is not that there is anything inevitable about a low degree of inter-generational mobility, or that it signals more persistence than other research. The most privileged will do everything they can to perpetrate their status across generations, and in past eras the structure of labor markets and public policies permitted, and in some measure continue to permit, a non-level playing field.
Rather, the real lesson is that dynamic labor markets offering new opportunities to the population as a whole, progressive public policies of relatively more benefit to the relatively disadvantaged, and strong families with growing incomes and human capital will lead to much more mobility than aristocrats of a pervious era could ever have imagined.