Data Visualization

Faces of Economic Mobility

Explore the interactive to find out which characteristics affect a family's economic mobility and their position on the economic ladder compared to their parents.

Faces of Economic Mobility

Welcome to Faces of Economic Mobility

This interactive data tool explores income and wealth mobility for 16 family types, providing a unique perspective on how education, family structure, and race affect Americans’ likelihood to do better or worse than their parents did financially. Only white and black respondents are included because of small sample sizes for other racial-ethnic groups in the Panel Study of Income Dyamics.

Users may click through the interactive to see where they stand based on the profile options selected.

Overall findings

  • Having college degrees significantly increased households’ median income and wealth levels and boosted mobility prospects.
    • White, college-educated couples, both with and without children, had the highest levels of income and wealth and experienced high rates of absolute and relative upward mobility.
    • Black, single men and women without college degrees, both with and without children, had the lowest levels of income and wealth, and those who started at the bottom of the income ladder had the lowest levels of relative upward mobility.
    • Black, college-educated, single mothers showed a clear benefit from their college degrees: 83 percent moved to a higher rung on the income ladder, compared with only 9 percent of their non-college-educated counterparts.
  • Family structure was an important driver of mobility: Married couples had higher levels of income and wealth than single individuals.
    • At least half of white, single men and women, regardless of education, fell a rung on both the income and wealth ladders.
    • White, non-college-educated, single mothers experienced the lowest levels of absolute mobility and were highly likely to fall a rung or be stuck at the bottom: 68 percent moved down the income ladder, and 66 percent moved down the wealth ladder.

Select your profile above to get started

group-image

Defining economic mobility

Economic Mobility

Economic mobility is the ability to move up and down the economic ladder during one’s lifetime and across generations.

Absolute Mobility

Absolute mobility looks at whether individuals exceed their parents’ family income or wealth as adults.

Relative Mobility

Relative mobility assesses individuals’ rank on the economic ladder compared with their parents.

Income Distribution

Hover over bar chart to see the percent of families in each income group.


  • 30th Percentile

    $100,000

  • Median Percentile

    $100,000

  • 70th Percentile

    $100,000


How do these families compare with their parents?

Percent
with higher
income

Percent moving up or down the income ladder

Hover over chart to see the percent that:

  • Moved up the ladder
  • Moved down the ladder
  • Stayed at the top
  • Stayed in the middle
  • Stayed at the bottom

Wealth Distribution

Hover over bar chart to see the percent of families in each wealth group.


  • 30th Percentile

    $100,000

  • Median Percentile

    $100,000

  • 70th Percentile

    $100,000


How do these families compare with their parents?

Percent
with higher
wealth

Percent moving up or down the wealth ladder

Hover over chart to see the percent that:

  • Moved up the ladder
  • Moved down the ladder
  • Stayed at the top
  • Stayed in the middle
  • Stayed at the bottom
Popover top

Popover content