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Dad's income a predictor of his kids'

A young boy rides on his father's shoulders in New York City.

Sarah Gardner: Attention, procrastinating offspring. It's may be too late to mail off your Father's Day cards if you want to get them to Dad before his special day on Sunday. And while you're counting all the things you have to thank him for, Krissy Clark from our Wealth and Poverty Desk has one more for the list.


Krissy Clark: Rachel Salinas just popped in to a drugstore in downtown L.A. to find a card for her dad.

Rachel Salinas: Very dad-like. Nuts and bolts and screws making out the name "Dad."

As for what to write inside? Salinas says she'll thank her dad for the intangible stuff.

Salinas: Values and strength and wisdom and the desire to achieve greatness.

But there's also something very tangible our dads pass on to us, according to Erin Currier at Pew's Economic Mobility Project. And she doesn't mean our noses.

Erin Currier: For those of you who feel that you are economically secure, you probably do have your fathers to thank for that.

Currier has calculated that about 60 percent of Americans whose fathers’ incomes were in the top fifth, stay in the top two-fifths themselves. And the same is true at the bottom. About 65 percent of those from the bottom fifth don't make it past the bottom two-fifths by the time they're adults. In other words?

Currier: Those who are born at the bottom of income distribution are the most likely to remain at the bottom, and those who start at the top are highly likely to stay at the top.

Miles Corak is an economist at the University of Ottawa. He's compared the U.S. to other rich countries, and found that Americans have less mobility across generations than Canada, Australia, and most of Europe.

Miles Corak: It does brush up against a vision that Americans hold of themselves where talents and energies determine outcomes.

The good news is that Americans are still likely to make more money than their dads. They're just not as likely to move to a different rung on the class ladder.

I'm Krissy Clark for Marketplace.

About the author

Krissy Clark is the senior reporter for Marketplace’s Wealth & Poverty Desk.

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