• Multigenerational Cycles of Poverty?
    Team members: Fabian Pfeffer, Davis Daumler
    External collaborators: Jingying He

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    Prior research on the intergenerational determinants of poverty has focused on the effects of parents’ poverty status on their immediate offspring. In contrast, this project investigates whether and why the intergenerational transmission of poverty extends beyond two generations, namely to the eventual offspring of children who grow up in poverty – questions that, despite much discourse about “multigenerational cycles of poverty”, remain unanswered. The project provides a detailed description of children in multigenerational poverty, test for the presence of direct multigenerational poverty effects, and provide a joint assessment of poverty and fertility dynamics in the transmission of poverty across three generations.

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  • The Land of Opportunity? Long-term trends in social mobility and education in the United States
    Team members: Fabian Pfeffer
    External collaborators: Florian Hertel

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    This project provides insights into the long-term trends of intergenerational mobility of men and women born in the United States. We study both absolute and relative social mobility and analyze in some detail the relation between education and intergenerational mobility. We document massive changes in the occupational structure and the educational system of the US. Especially women benefitted consistently from the trend towards a post-industrial society, experiencing decreasing levels of downward mobility, while tendencies towards polarization of the occupational structure increased downward mobility for men. We find little evidence that education is becoming increasingly a motor for absolute upward mobility but our findings suggest that class placement is becoming more heterogeneous across educational levels. Our assessment of changes in relative mobility levels and how they relate to changes in education reveals quite different stories for men and women. While class fluidity increased among men, it remained stable among women. We find that the moderate increases in class fluidity among men are primarily driven by educational expansion and the compositional effect. For women, on the contrary, educational expansion alone had the potential to decrease female fluidity – chiefly since it elevated women’s qualifications and enabled them henceforth to gain access to occupations restricted to their fathers. Download

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  • Affluence Dynamics in the United States
    Team members: Fabian Pfeffer
    External collaborators: Lloyd Grieger

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    This project assesses the changing permeability of top income and earnings positions by providing new estimates of how common it is for a person to reach the top of the income/earnings distribution in their lifetime and by answering whether access to these top positions has changed over time and why. We expand upon a long-standing literature that has focused on the bottom of the income distribution, i.e. on poverty dynamics, and correct prior, biased estimates of the dynamics of affluence using new data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, Social Security Administration earnings records, and IRS income tax records.

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  • Three-Generational Associations in Socio-Economic Outcomes
    Team members: Fabian Pfeffer

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    This project analyzes three-generational associations for a broad range of socio-economic outcomes, namely education, occupation, earnings, income, and wealth, based on nationally representative data for the United States. I apply two distinct but complementary perspectives on multigenerational associations: First, I document the degree of similarity in socio-economic standing among individuals of the third generation (G3) via cousin correlations. This “horizontal approach” captures the sum of all sources of three-generational factors involved in the socio-economic attainment of a current generation of adults. Second, to assess whether these multigenerational associations can be traced to the direct effects of selected socio-economic characteristics of grandparents (G1), I apply three-generational status attainment models. This “vertical approach” reveals the relative importance of measurable socio-economic characteristics of grandparents and parents. Finally, this paper begins to document sources of heterogeneity in multigenerational associations that may point towards the underlying social mechanisms.

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  • The Effects of Social Mobility
    Team members: Fabian Pfeffer, Giovanni Roman Torres
    External collaborators: Ethan Fosse

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    Direct empirical tests of the causal relationship between individuals’ experiences of social mobility and other outcomes – such as their socio-psychological well-being, their political attitudes, or their behaviors – are rare and difficult. The main challenge is methodological: By definition, social mobility is the linear combination of social origins and social destinations. As such, it is impossible to disentangle the relative causal impact exerted by the culture of one’s origin class, of one’s destination class, and the gap between the two. We outline an approach that addresses this methodological obstacle not through ultimately arbitrary parametric assumptions but through a method of non-parametric bounding. This approach directly incorporates existing theoretical predictions and ethnographic insights into a statistical model to reveal the degree to which they can help estimate the individual-level effects of social mobility.

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