Americans' occupational status reflects the status of both of their parents

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American workers' occupational status strongly reflects the status of their parents. Men and women who grew up in a two-earner or father-breadwinner family achieved occupations that rose 0.5 point for every one-point increase in their parents' statuses (less if their father was absent). Gender differences were small in two-earner families and mother-only families, but men's status persisted more when the father was the sole breadwinner. Intergenerational persistence did not change in the time the data cover (1994-2016). Absolute mobility declined for recent birth cohorts; barely half the men and women born in the 1980s were upwardly mobile compared with two-thirds of those born in the 1940s. The results as described hold for a socioeconomic index (SEI) that scores occupation according to the average pay and credentials of people in the occupation. Most results were the same when occupations were coded by different criteria, but SEI produced the smallest gender differences.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)9527-9532
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number38
StatePublished - Sep 18 2018


  • Gender inequality
  • Intergenerational persistence
  • Social inequality
  • Social mobility

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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