Summary of How Will We Know? The Case for Opportunity Indicators

In: The Dynamics of Opportunity in America

Brookings Institution, more...

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How Will We Know? The Case for Opportunity Indicators summary
“Opportunity indicators” could measure and advance people’s upward income mobility.


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While the United States often bills itself as “the land of opportunity,” the metrics for laying claim to that coveted title are often muddled and murky. Even as politicians remain behind battle lines on critical issues, almost all of them agree that upward income mobility has stalled. At one time, Americans could reasonably expect to achieve a better economic status than the one into which they were born. That’s no longer necessarily so. Writer Richard V. Reeves explores the ways government can use available data to measure income progress while aiming at specific opportunity targets. getAbstract recommends this thought-provoking paper to social scientists, economists and government decision makers interested in gauging social and economic mobility.

In this summary, you will learn

  • How researchers define “income mobility,”
  • How education and race influence earnings progression, and
  • What steps government can take to measure and attain broader levels of upward income mobility.


To understand why the American ideals of equal opportunity for all and of intergenerational mobility seem to be fading, it helps to first define the concept of “mobility.” By one definition, it is a measure of how likely children are to overtake their parents in terms of income. Under that guideline...
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About the Author

Richard V. Reeves is a writer and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

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