While social mobility and economic opportunity are important aspects of the American ethos, the data suggest they are more myth than reality. In fact, a child’s family income plays a dominant role in determining his or her future income, and those who start out poor are likely to remain poor. This figure shows the chances that a child’s future earnings will place him in the lowest the or the highest quintile depending on where his parents fell in the distribution (from left to right on the figure, the lowest, middle, and highest quintiles).
Many workers can benefit substantially from worker training programs, which provide education and skill development that lead to increased economic opportunities and better jobs. Students who earn two-year degrees in a high-return field, four-year degrees after a two-year degree, or certain career-oriented certificates, earn median salaries of $34,000 or more per year. Students who earn two-year degrees in low-return fields or who do not complete their programs earn around 33 percent less.
Graduates of majors with initially low earnings experience faster earnings growth during the early-career years.
Since about 1980, the growth of single-parent families has been driven almost entirely by an increase in childbearing outside of marriage, often the result of people sliding into relationships and having an unplanned baby.
The U.S. minimum wage now stands at 38 percent of the median wage, the third-lowest among OECD countries.
This chart presents the schedule for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) for tax year 2014 and possible adjustments to maximize the impact.