Economic Mobility in America

Is the American Dream Alive and Well?


Quick summary

This 2007 report, Economic Mobility in America: Is the American Dream Alive and Well?, raised provocative questions about the continuing ability of all Americans to move up the economic ladder and calls into question whether the American economic meritocracy is alive and well. This paper examined whether a rising tide lifts all ships or whether individual effort and talent allow a family's boat to rise above others—or whether economic mobility is the combination of both.

For more than two centuries, economic opportunity and the prospect of upward mobility have formed the bedrock upon which the American story has been anchored—inspiring people in distant lands to seek our shores and sustaining the unwavering optimism of Americans at home. This once solid ground may well be shifting.

This report also discussed the implications of then-new analysis showing that the strength of America's rising economic tide has not benefited significant segments of our citizenry. Gone are the days when a stable, single income was enough to launch the next generation toward growing prosperity. In modern America, upward mobility is increasingly a family enterprise. And during a time of rapidly shifting household structure, this has significant repercussions for the economic mobility prospects of millions of Americans.