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 United States does not currently invest heavily in vocational training compared with other countries, and funding for vocational training has declined over the past decades. The United States spends less than 0.05 percent of its gross domestic product on vocational training opportunities for workers.
This chart illustrates the cumulative risk of imprisonment for parents—or the projected lifetime likelihood of having served time for a person born in a specific year—by the time their child turns fourteen, by child's race and their own educational attainment. Regardless of race, fathers are much more likely to have been imprisoned than are mothers.
The earnings of college graduates are much higher than for nongraduates, and that is especially true among people born into low-income families. As the figure shows, without a college degree a child born into a family in the lowest quintile has a 45 percent change of remaining in that quintile as an adult and only a 5 percent chance of moving into the highest quintile.
One significant consequence of growing income inequality is that, by historical standards, high-income households are spending much more on their children’s education than low-income households. This figure shows enrichment expenditures—SAT prep, private tutors, computers, music lessons, and the like—by income level.
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).