Intergenerational Life Course Income Trajectories and Mobility: A Gendered Pattern of Association


PSTC Seminar Room, Mencoff Hall 205

Xi Song, Associate Professor of Sociology, University of Pennsylvania

Add to calendar

There is a long history of studying intergenerational mobility using mobility tables or transition matrices. One potential limitation of this approach is that the number of social classes in each generation is predetermined, and individuals are assumed to stay within the same social class over the life course. We apply an alternative, group-based trajectory approach to characterize social status development over individuals' working lives and examine the association in life trajectories between generations. Using data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (1968-2017), we show significant differences in intergenerational income associations among groups that experienced divergent income trajectories over the life course. The results suggest that the economic status of parents and offspring is associated not only in income levels–-as most previous research using mobility tables has shown–-but, more strongly, in the ways that income evolves as each generation's life-cycle prole unfolds. Educational attainment explains away the intergenerational associations in income trajectory groups between fathers and daughters, but not between fathers and sons. The latent approach highlights some gendered patterns and mechanisms of intergenerational income associations that have been overlooked previously in mobility studies analyzing income strata based on quintiles or other percentile-based measures.

Xi Song is an Associate Professor of Sociology and an affiliate of the Population Studies Center at the University of Pennsylvania. She received her Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of California–Los Angeles (UCLA) in 2015 and was an Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Chicago from 2015 to 2019. Her research interests include social stratification and mobility, poverty, inequality, population studies, quantitative methodology, and studies on China and East Asia. Her current research examines social, economic, and demographic processes that govern the persistence of inequality across life stages and generations in historical and contemporary China and the United States.