Aart Kraay, Roy Van der Weide, 15 August 2017

Current approaches to measuring top and bottom incomes cannot track the fortunes of the same group of individuals over time. This column addresses this shortcoming by developing a new method for measuring income mobility. After accounting for mobility, the incomes of those who start out rich grow considerably more slowly, and incomes of those who start out poor grow faster, compared to commonly reported growth rates of top and bottom incomes.

Carol Graham, 28 July 2017

Despite the long-held belief that high levels of inequality in the US signal future opportunity, a number of studies suggest that this is no longer the reality. This column examines trends in inequality from the perspective of well-being and focuses on non-economic aspects of welfare, including hope. The results reveal stark differences across people, races, and places in the US. Poor minorities – and blacks in particular – are much more hopeful than poor whites, while urban places are more hopeful than are rural ones, as are places with higher levels of diversity.

Kaivan Munshi, 28 July 2017

Raj Chetty, David Grusky, Maximilian Hell, Nathaniel Hendren, Robert Manduca, Jimmy Narang, 05 May 2017

One of the defining features of the ‘American Dream’ is the ideal that children have a higher standard of living than their parents. This column examines rates of ‘absolute income mobility’ – the fraction of children who earn more than their parents – to assess whether the US is living up to this ideal. Rates of absolute mobility have fallen from approximately 90% for children born in 1940 to 50% for children born in the 1980s. Most of this decline is driven by the more unequal distribution of economic growth rather than the slowdown in aggregate growth rates.

Brandon Dupont, Joshua Rosenbloom, 19 June 2016

The long-run persistence of social and economic status has received substantial attention from economists of late. But the impact of economic and political shocks on this persistence has yet to be thoroughly explored. This column examines the disruptions from the US Civil War on the Southern wealth distribution. Results suggest that an entrenched southern planter elite retained their economic status after the war. However, the turmoil of the decade opened mobility opportunities for Southerners of more modest means, especially compared with the North.

Peter Egger, Sergey Nigai, Nora Strecker, 21 May 2016

Increased globalisation since the mid-1990s has eroded some of the tax bases of many economies. At the same time, demand for public goods has risen and governments face the challenge of financing greater public expenditure with lower tax revenues. This column discusses tax policy responses to increasing globalisation, showing that since the mid-1990s governments in OECD countries have increasingly relied on revenues from employee-borne rather than firm-borne taxes. Due to the greater mobility of capital and high-skilled workers, who are able to escape higher taxes more easily, the middle classes have carried much of the additional tax burden.