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Why Economic Mobility?

Why Economic Mobility?

This unique event bridged the gap between research, policy and practice on key issues facing the country. High-quality and emerging research was presented in a dialogue with policymakers and community practitioners who can utilize the lessons gleaned from research.

Profound economic forces over the last few decades have challenged the financial stability and optimism of families, the prosperity of communities and the sustained growth of the U.S. economy. While economic, technological or social changes have historically provided a spark for innovation and growth, renewing the promise of upward economic mobility, today there is widespread public concern that the challenges are too great.

Today, scholars are asking whether these changes—especially those associated with the Great Recession—are diminishing the ability of families, communities and the economy to adapt, innovate and grow. In response to these questions, presentations focused on the following:

Families Communities Economy

How do families, households and individuals experience economic mobility?

  • Relative economic mobility: How do individuals move up or down the economic ladder relative to their peers, their parents or themselves over time (within or across generations)? How do Americans change “ranks” or move up another “rung” of the economic ladder?
  • Absolute economic mobility: How do the economic conditions (income, earnings, wealth) of individuals compare with their parents during the same point in their life or career? How does their income change over time? What accounts for any differences?
  • Models and predictors of economic mobility: What roles do various financial factors–income, employment, family background, savings, assets, homeownership, debt, net worth, access to credit and so on–play in predicting economic mobility?
  • International comparisons of economic mobility: How does the U.S. compare to other countries?

What is the relationship between communities and economic mobility?

  • Geographical or regional differences: How do locational differences affect economic mobility outcomes? Do local policies matter for promoting economic mobility?
  • Community characteristics: What neighborhood conditions affect economic mobility? Do neighborhoods built around common bonds (such as racial or ethnic ties) affect economic mobility? And why?
  • Predictors of community or neighborhood health and prosperity: Why do certain physical places succeed or fail in generating jobs, small-business growth, wealth-building financial services, rising home values, better schools, lower crime, etc.?
  • Residential mobility: Is physically moving within a community, or to another community, associated with family economic mobility?

How does economic mobility, or the lack of it, impact the broader economy? How do macroeconomic forces affect individual- or community-level economic mobility options and outcomes?

  • Economic mobility, growth and inequality: What are the relationships and linkages between measures of economic mobility, economic growth, and income and wealth inequality? At what point does inequality matter for economic opportunity?
  • Economic performance: Do enhanced opportunities for economic mobility improve overall economic performance?