How can we improve economic opportunities for our children?

We use big data to identify new pathways to upward mobility.

Two Americas: Upward Mobility for White vs. Black Children

Average incomes of children growing up in low-income (25th percentile) families
Absolute Mobility by Cohort

Our Latest
Race and Opportunity in the United States

In our most recent study, we analyze racial differences in economic opportunity using data on 20 million children and their parents. We show black children have much lower rates of upward mobility and higher rates of downward mobility than white children, leading to black-white income disparities that persist across generations. While Hispanic and black Americans presently have comparable incomes, the incomes of Hispanic Americans are increasing steadily across generations.

The black-white gap in upward mobility is driven entirely by differences in men’s, not women’s, outcomes. Black and white men have very different outcomes even if they grow up in two-parent families with comparable incomes, education, and wealth; live on the same city block; and attend the same school. Black-white gaps are smaller in low-poverty neighborhoods with lower levels of racial bias among whites and a larger fraction of black fathers at home. We conclude that reducing the black-white income gap will require efforts whose impacts cross neighborhood and class lines and increase upward mobility specifically for black men.

To learn more, see the non-technical summary, slides, full paper, or data tables.

Project Motivation

A defining feature of the “American Dream” is upward income mobility: the ideal that children have a higher standard of living than their parents. Our work shows that children's prospects of earning more than their parents have fallen from 90% to 50% over the past half century. Understanding what has led to this erosion of the American Dream — and how we can revive it for future generations — is the motivation for the Equality of Opportunity Project.

For an overview of our work, please listen to this podcast on Freakonomics Radio.

The Fading American Dream

Percent of Children Earning More than their Parents, by Year of Birth


Our mission is to develop scalable policy solutions that will empower families to rise out of poverty and achieve better life outcomes. We aim to achieve this mission by harnessing the power of big data to learn from areas where the American Dream is still thriving.

Research Areas

Want to Learn More?

Click here to read summaries and full-length version of our papers
and here to download publicly available data from the project.