January 7, 2020, Opinion, "The United States currently exhibits more economic inequality than any peer nation, and surveys of US adults support the idea that inequality is acceptable if it is balanced by mobility. Many are untroubled if doctors make 10 or 20 times what janitors make, as long as janitors’ sons have opportunities to become doctors. In an era of rising income and wealth inequality in the United States since the 1970s, that balance of inequality and mobility grows in salience. Enter Song et al.’s paper, “Long-term decline in intergenerational mobility in the United States since the 1850s” (1), which uses linked household and population records on the occupations of generations of US-born white men, along with data from several representative surveys, to describe how social mobility in the United States has changed since before the Civil War and before industrialization transformed economic production. Comparing the occupations of sons to the occupations of their fathers, Song et al. (1) paint a troubling picture of rising intergenerational persistence in occupational status. One’s social class of origin—the class one is born into—has become “stickier” since 1850. That is, sons’ occupations are increasingly predictable from fathers’ occupations. The headline finding is that sons born after 1940—the Baby Boomers, Gen Xers, and Millennials of today—are significantly less likely to surpass their fathers in occupational attainment. Fewer janitors’ sons are becoming doctors today."