Racial and Ethnic Differences in the Geography of Intergenerational Mobility
30 Pages Posted: 15 Mar 2018 Last revised: 7 Jul 2020
Date Written: March 12, 2018
We use the NLSY79 to produce the first estimates of intergenerational mobility in the U.S. by both region and race/ethnicity. We show that gaps in intergenerational mobility by race are significantly larger than those by region. In particular, there is no region in the United States where it is better to be poor and black compared to being equally poor and white. We also show that the expected rank of Hispanics falls between that of whites and blacks. We find that the low mobility in the Southeast of the US documented by Chetty et al (2014) is actually driven by low mobility by whites and that blacks who grew up in the Southeast actually experience higher mobility than blacks growing up in the Northeast and Midwest. We also directly examine the role of migration and find that it plays little role in explaining the regional heterogeneity in intergenerational mobility. Finally, we use a rich set of individual covariates available in the NLSY — including test scores — and show that these can explain much of the gaps by race/ethnicity.
Keywords: intergenerational mobility, racial differences
JEL Classification: J62, J15
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation