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Economic Mobility More Hollywood than Reality

Photo by Lisa Norwood/Flickr

In the past generation, the rich did get richer and the poor did get poorer, according to a new report from the Pew Center on States. Project manager Erin Currier of Pew's Economic Mobility Project says the report, "Pursuing the American Dream: Economic Mobility Across Generations,"

calls into question the quality of the opportunity Americans believe exists in the United States.

Dividing the income and wealth ladder into five rungs, the report finds:

Median wealth for those in the lowest wealth quintile decreased from just under $7,500 in the parents' generation to less than $2,800 in the children's generation. Conversely, at the top of the wealth distribution, median wealth increased from just under $500,000 in the parents' generation to almost $630,000 in the children's generation.

Overall, while a majority of Americans exceed their parents’ family incomes, the extent of that increase is not always enough to move them to a different rung of the family income ladder. Sixty-six percent of those raised in the bottom of the wealth ladder remain on the bottom two rungs themselves, and 66 percent of those raised in the top of the wealth ladder remain on the top two rungs.

Only four percent of those raised in the bottom quintile make it all the way to the top as adults, confirming that the "rags-to-riches" story is more often found in Hollywood than in reality. Similarly, just eight percent of those raised in the top quintile fall all the way to the bottom.

Click here for the full report.

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