New research from the inequality project at Harvard finds income mobility across generations is unchanged in half a century. Moreover, this study finds parental income explains less than 10 percent of their adult child’s earnings. Education and single parenting are much larger factors. It is what kids learn at home, not how much their parents make, that affects income mobility.
So the problem is the limits to policy. We spend upwards of $150,000 per child on a high school education, but about 1 in 7 kids fail to graduate. We spend enormous sums on public contraception and abortion as well as sex education. There are hundreds of programs, still the share of births to single moms grew from 5 to more than 40 percent over 50 years of our war on poverty.
If we wish to intervene with policy, it is going to have to aim directly at the parent-child interaction, and it is going to have to be all about choices.
Michael J. Hicks, Ph.D., is director of the Center for Business and Economic Research and a professor of economics at Ball State University.