Downward mobility datapoint of the day

By Felix Salmon
December 10, 2010

If you’re white, and you were raised in the bottom 60% of the income distribution, you have a 22% chance of being in the bottom 20% as an adult.

If you’re black, and you were raised in the bottom 60% of the income distribution, you have a 49% chance of being in the bottom 20% as an adult.

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8 comments so far

I wonder if this has anything to do with having the father present while the person is growing up?

Posted by bob33 | Report as abusive

bob33, You have any data that backs up the claim that poor black fathers are less likely to be present than poor white ones?

Posted by Danny_Black | Report as abusive

there is an issue here with the conditional distributions. Conditioned on being raised in the lower 60% the distributions for white and black people may be different. I.e. the probability that a white person was raised in the lower 10% given that he was raised in the lower 60% might be 1/6. And moving out of the lower 20% would be more difficult for any group whose conditional distribution is concentrated on the lower end.

Posted by williamperkins | Report as abusive

err they mangled my comment. meant to say: conditional probability for a white person to be in lower 10 might be less that 1/6 while for a black person might be greater that 1/6.

Posted by williamperkins | Report as abusive

I agree with williamperkins. These statistics are worthless. Also, I don’t see these numbers on the chart (I assume you mean 49%, but “bottom 60%” is neither accurate nor precise here).

In fact, the only part of that chart that isn’t immediately dismissible on this basis is the leftmost one, looking at how much of the bottom fifth remains in the bottom fifth. But that’s not downward mobility, it’s stagnation (also a bad thing for groups disproportionately in the lower quintile). Then again, stagnation alone isn’t a very useful measure — the two groups could have the same group stagnation (beginning and ending distributions), but very different individual stagnation (i.e. higher mobility among whites, but they’re just trading places with one another).

Posted by absinthe | Report as abusive

@Danny_Black –

2/3 black children live in a single parent household. 1/4 white children live in a single parent household. ossstates/Rankings.aspx?ind=107

This isn’t broken down by income but among blacks having two parents around is the exception.

Posted by DanHess | Report as abusive

What if you’re white and raised in the bottom 5% of income distribution? Or maybe in the bottom 2%?

These thoughts never occurred to me as a child when My two parents and I lived for a week on a sack of onions a loaf of bread and a pound of margarine, or when I was sleeping with a dog at -18f to keep from freezing to death! And yes this was in the USA. And, of course then I have to heat about how Bryan Gumbel was discriminated against because of his blackness.

Posted by Paracelcus | Report as abusive

@Danny. Sorry for the delay in responding. Please see nt-families for some information on single parent families. I have great respect for most mothers who raise their children alone and very little for fathers who abandon them. Education is so important in our post-industrial society. The drop out rate is much higher for children of single parent families. This can’t help but affect how well they do later in life.

Posted by bob33 | Report as abusive
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