Mencoff Hall 205
Siwei Cheng, Associate Professor of Sociology, New York University
Abstract: Income in the United States has polarized since the 1980s, but little is known about how polarization affects equality of opportunity in society. In this talk, I first introduce an approach for measuring income polarization that flexibly accounts for the expansion and contraction of various ranges of the income distribution. Then, I apply this approach to examine the impact of income polarization on intergenerational mobility. Exploiting the geographic variation of income polarization and intergenerational mobility in the United States, we find that patterns of income polarization vary substantially across commuting zones and are predictive of mobility outcomes, independent of cross-sectional income inequality and a large set of additional commuting zone level controls. Shrinkage of the middle of the income distribution reduces mobility, but changes of the two sides of the distribution have asymmetric effects: expansion of the upper side of the income distribution, but not the lower side, inhibits upward mobility and increases downward mobility among children from all ranges of parental income. These findings reveal an important intergenerational consequence of income polarization: children growing up in places with polarizing income distributions face greater barriers to economic opportunity.
Bio: Siwei Cheng is Associate Professor of Sociology at New York University. Prior to joining the faculty of NYU, Cheng was Assistant Professor of Sociology at UCLA (2015-2016). She received her Ph.D. in Sociology and Public Policy and M.A. in Statistics from the University of Michigan, where she was also trained at the Population Studies Center. She received her B.A. in Economics and Statistics from Peking University. Dr Cheng's research encompasses various areas of stratification and inequality, labor market, and quantitative methodology. Her work has been published in leading social science and general science journals, including the American Journal of Sociology, American Sociological Review, and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Her current work studies how economic polarization affects jobs, workers, families, and communities.
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