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Education and Intergenerational Social Mobility in Europe and the United States$
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Richard Breen and Walter Müller

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781503610163

Published to Stanford Scholarship Online: May 2020

DOI: 10.11126/stanford/9781503610163.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM STANFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.stanford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Stanford University Press, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in SSO for personal use.date: 23 May 2022

The Land of Opportunity?

The Land of Opportunity?

Trends in Social Mobility and Education in the United States

(p.29) Chapter Three The Land of Opportunity?
Education and Intergenerational Social Mobility in Europe and the United States

Florian R. Hertel

Fabian T. Pfeffer

Stanford University Press

This chapter investigates intergenerational class mobility in the U.S. during the twentieth century. It describes absolute and relative mobility trends and explores the role of educational expansion in shaping them. Analyses are based on data from several nationally representative surveys (GSS, OCG-II, SIPP, and PSID). As a consequence of massive occupational and educational upgrading, upward mobility increased over most of the century. The role of education in contributing to absolute class mobility changed across time: Class gaps in education as well as class returns to education equalized initially, but became more polarized among recent cohorts. Relative mobility trends differed by gender: After an initial surge in fluidity for both, mobility chances remained stable for women but increased further for men. Rising fluidity among men is mostly due to increasing college graduation rates (i.e., the compositional effect), whereas educational trends contribute little to understanding the stability of women’s mobility chances.

Keywords:   social mobility, intergenerational class mobility, educational expansion, compositional effect, returns to education, educational inequality, United States

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