Rags to riches still a fairy tale

Nancy Marshall-Genzer Nov 13, 2007


Scott Jagow: A study out today says two-thirds of American families make more money than their parents did, factoring in inflation. But that doesn’t mean people are going anywhere. Nancy Marshall Genzer explains.

Nancy Marshall Genzer: Maybe you’re not driving your father’s Oldsmobile, but your income today is linked to your parents’ income bracket — or, more academically, quintile. The study says rich kids generally stay rich, and poor kids stay poor.

John Morton is the Pew Trusts director of economic policy:

John Morton: About 6 percent of children born into the bottom quintile rise to have family incomes in that top quintile. So it’s much more likely that you’ll be rags to rags than rags to riches.

The study’s author, Julia Isaacs of the Brookings Institution, says a surprising number of African Americans who grew up middle class don’t stay there.

Julia Isaacs: Forty-five percent of them fell from the middle to the bottom, whereas among white children it was only 16 percent who fell from the middle to the bottom.

But many families’ higher incomes are largely due to more women working outside the home. Men in their 30’s today actually make slightly less than their fathers did.

In Washington, I’m Nancy Marshall Genzer, for Marketplace.

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