A New Infrastructure for Monitoring Social Mobility in the United States

Ann Am Acad Pol Soc Sci. 2015 Jan;657(1):63-82. doi: 10.1177/0002716214549941. Epub 2014 Dec 10.


The country's capacity to monitor trends in social mobility has languished since the last major survey on U.S. social mobility was fielded in 1973. It is accordingly difficult to evaluate recent concerns that social mobility may be declining or to develop mobility policy that is adequately informed by evidence. This article presents a new initiative, dubbed the American Opportunity Study (AOS), that would allow the country to monitor social mobility efficiently and with great accuracy. The AOS entails developing the country's capacity to link records across decennial censuses, the American Community Survey, and administrative sources. If an AOS of this sort were assembled, it would open up new fields of social science inquiry; increase opportunities for evidence-based policy on poverty, mobility, child development, and labor markets; and otherwise constitute a new social science resource with much reach and impact.

Keywords: administrative data; economic mobility; occupational mobility; panel data; social mobility.