Here is the latest, by Emmanuel Saez and co-authors; note I linked to this paper yesterday but now I have looked at it.  Here is one key sentence:

…we find that short-term and long-term mobility among all workers has been quite stable since the 1950s.

To disaggregate, note that mobility among males is down but mobility among females is up.  (It is an interesting question whether there is a causal relationship here.)

Here is a much earlier MR post on mobility.  Keep these links in mind next time you hear claims about mobility, and I believe you will hear many such claims in September.  See also our earlier posts on Dalton Conley, who shows just how much inequality is generated within the same family.

It should be noted that Saez is the leading measurer of income inequality and also a critic of such inequality.  In his view a constant level of mobility means that no force is offsetting ongoing inequality.  I believe he would likely read his own paper as support for a left-wing view of the world and as support for concern with income inequality.  He would not read his work as reason to dismiss the mobility issue.  My view differs, as I worry about mobility — can a hard-working person get ahead? — but I do not worry about inequality per se, nor do I require of mobility that it overturn a particular level of inequality. 


Tyler, I have not looked at the research on mobility. Given the large changes in age composition of population over the past 60 years, I'd like to know if Saez and other researchers have taken into account their impact. My impression is that today in the US and almost everywhere young hard-working people can get ahead much easier than 50 years ago.

"as I worry about mobility -- can a hard-working person get ahead? -- but I do not worry about inequality per se"

Well, if you worry about mobility maybe you should worry more about inequality. I can't imagine a society with very high earnings inequality and perfect mobility. Countries with the highest mobilities (Scandinavian countries) are also the ones with the lowest inequalities. The two are correlated. Of course not perfectly, some corrective mechanisms can work, but correlated nonetheless.

I guess that's why you added "per se" after "I do not worry about inequality" but I still wanted to make this point...

My research topic was intergenerational and intragenerational occupational mobility and I found that even now Cairness non-competing groups theory is in operation.

Figure 4A answers one question that has been mentioned repeatedly in discussions on income inequality. About 35% if those with incomes at the very top (.1%), do not stay there. For them it is a one shot deal, probably cashing in on many years of work.

I've run across this fellow before - a true original. We even had a bit of back and forth a couple of years ago.

As for arguing with libertarians, as you said I consider this unproductive. I still try to cite some data when I can find it and it seems relevant. I also try to point out biases in analysis or assumptions.

There are others who are not libertarians who read some of these sites, and they may find hearing additional viewpoints interesting.

I'm still waiting for some remarks on Saez's qualification about effects being "masked".

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