Chasing the Same Dream, Climbing Different Ladders

Economic Mobility in the United States and Canada

quick summary

This January 2010 report examined intergenerational economic mobility trends in Canada and the US. The report found notable differences in economic mobility outcomes among citizens in the United States and Canada Specifically, Americans were more likely to be "stuck" at the top and bottom of the income ladder over a generation than are Canadians.

The United States and Canada have a great deal in common, with histories and cultures shaped by newcomers seeking opportunities and better lives. Yet there are very important differences in social and economic trends on either side of the 49th parallel. In particular, previous analyses of economic mobility in the United States and other industrialized nations reveal that the United States has less, not more, mobility than its northern neighbor. That is, one's family economic background is more likely to influence one's economic outcomes in the United States than in Canada.

The January 2010 report, Chasing the Same Dream, presented a comparable analysis of economic mobility over a generation, using the best available administrative data from both countries. Additionally, it evaluated nationally representative polls conducted in both countries, commissioned by the Pew Economic Mobility Project, to explore whether the differential rates of mobility in the U.S. and Canada reflected differences in public opinion, values, or underlying societal goals.