The Decline Of Upward Mobility In One Chart
For decades, a majority of Americans have been able to climb the economic ladder by earning higher incomes than their parents. These improving conditions are known as upward mobility, and form an important part of the American Dream.
However, each consecutive generation is finding it harder to make this ascent. In this graphic, we illustrate the decline in upward mobility over five decades using data from Opportunity Insights.
Understanding The Chart
This graphic plots the probability that a 30-year-old American has to outearn their parents (vertical axis) depending on their parent’s income percentile (horizontal axis). The 1st percentile represents America’s lowest earners, while the 99th percentile the richest.
As we move from left to right on the chart, the portion of people who outearn their parents takes a steep decline. This suggests that people born into upper class families are less likely to outearn their parents, regardless of generation.
The key takeaway, though, is that the starting point of this downward trend has shifted to the left. In other words, fewer people in the lower- and middle-classes are climbing the economic ladder.
|Decade Born||Chance of Outearning Parents (Bottom Percentile)||Chance of Outearning Parents (50th Percentile)||Chance of Outearning Parents (Top Income Percentile)|
Declines can be seen across the board, but those growing up in the middle-class (50th percentile) have taken the largest hit. Within this bracket, individuals born in 1980 have only a 45% chance of outearning their parents at age 30, compared to 93% for those born in 1940.
Stagnating Wage Growth a Culprit
One factor behind America’s deteriorating upward mobility is the sluggish pace at which wages have grown. For example, the average hourly wage in 1964, when converted to 2018 dollars, is $20.27. Compare this to $22.65, the average hourly wage in 2018. That represents a mere 11.7% increase over a span of 54 years.
However, this may not be as bad as it sounds. While the prices of some goods and services have risen over time, others have actually become more affordable. Since January 1998, for example, the prices of electronic goods such as TVs and cellphones have actually decreased. In this way, individuals today are more prosperous than previous generations.
This benefit is likely outweighed by relative increases in other services, though. Whereas inflation since January 1998 totaled 58.8%, the costs of health and education services increased by more than 160% over the same time frame.
While wages have been stagnant as a whole, it doesn’t paint the full picture. Another factor to consider is America’s changing income distribution.
|Income Class||1970 Share of U.S. Aggregate Income||2018 Share of U.S. Aggregate Income|
Source: Pew Research Center
Like the data on upward mobility, the middle class takes the largest hit here, with its share of U.S. aggregate income falling by 19 percentage points. Over the same time frame, the upper class was able to increase its share of total income by 20 percentage points.
Is It All Bad News?
Americans are less likely to earn more than their parents, but this doesn’t mean that upward mobility has completely disappeared—it’s just becoming less accessible. Below, we illustrate the changes in size for different income classes from 1967 to 2016.
The upper middle class has grown significantly, from 6% of the population in 1967 to 33% in 2016. At the same time, the middle class shrank from 47% to 36% and the lower middle class shrank from 31% to 16%.
The data suggests that some middle class Americans are still managing to pull themselves up into the next income bracket—it’s just not an effect that was as broad-based as it’s been in the past.
Does The American Dream Still Exist?
The American Dream is the belief that upward mobility is attainable for everyone through their own actions. This implies that growth will be continuous and widespread, two factors that have seemingly deteriorated in recent decades.
Researchers believe there are numerous complex reasons behind America’s stagnating wages. A decline in union membership, for example, could be eroding employees’ collective bargaining power. Other factors such as technological change may also apply downwards pressure on the wages of less educated workers.
Income inequality, on the other hand, is clearly shown by the data. We can also refer to the Gini-coefficient, a statistical measure of economic inequality. It ranges between 0 and 1, with 0 representing perfect equality and 1 representing perfect inequality (one person holds all the income). The U.S. currently has a Gini-coefficient of 0.434, the highest of any G7 country.
Long story short, the American Dream is still alive—it’s just becoming harder to come by.
Mapped: The 50 Richest Women in the World in 2021
Fewer than 12% of global billionaires are women, but they still hold massive amounts of wealth. Who are the 50 richest women in the world?
Mapped: The 50 Richest Women in the World in 2021
View the high-resolution of the infographic by clicking here.
According to a recent census by Wealth-X, 11.9% of global billionaires are women. Even at such a minority share, this group still holds massive amounts of wealth.
Using a real-time list of billionaires from Forbes, we examine the net worth of the 50 richest women in the world and which country they’re from.
Where are the World’s Richest Women?
The richest woman in the world, Francoise Bettencourt Meyers and family own 33% of stock in L’Oréal S.A., a French personal care brand. She is also the granddaughter of its founder.
In April 2019, L’Oréal and the Bettencourt Meyers family pledged $226 million (€200 million) towards the repair of the Notre Dame cathedral after its devastating fire.
Following closely behind is Alice Walton of the Walmart empire—also the world’s richest family. Together with her brothers, they own over 50% of the company’s shares. That’s a pretty tidy sum, considering Walmart raked in $524 billion in revenues in their 2020 fiscal year.
Other family ties among the richest women in the world include Jacqueline Mars and her four granddaughters, heiresses to a slice of the Mars Inc. fortune in candy and pet food—and all of them make this list.
|Rank||Name||Net Worth ($B)||Country|
|#1||Francoise Bettencourt Meyers & family||$71.4||🇫🇷 France|
|#2||Alice Walton||$68.0||🇺🇸 United States|
|#3||MacKenzie Scott||$54.9||🇺🇸 United States|
|#4||Julia Koch & family||$44.9||🇺🇸 United States|
|#5||Yang Huiyan & family||$31.4||🇨🇳 China|
|#6||Jacqueline Mars||$28.9||🇺🇸 United States|
|#7||Susanne Klatten||$25.8||🇩🇪 Germany|
|#8||Zhong Huijuan||$23.5||🇨🇳 China|
|#9||Laurene Powell Jobs & family||$22.1||🇺🇸 United States|
|#10||Iris Fontbona & family||$21.0||🇨🇱 Chile|
|#11||Zhou Qunfei & family||$18.6||🇭🇰 Hong Kong|
|#12||Fan Hongwei & family||$17.9||🇨🇳 China|
|#13||Gina Rinehart||$17.4||🇦🇺 Australia|
|#14||Charlene de Carvalho-Heineken & family||$17.1||🇳🇱 Netherlands|
|#15||Wu Yajun||$16.3||🇨🇳 China|
|#16||Abigail Johnson||$15.0||🇺🇸 United States|
|#17||Kirsten Rausing||$13.5||🇸🇪 Sweden|
|#18||Kwong Siu-hing||$13.0||🇭🇰 Hong Kong|
|#19||Lu Zhongfang||$12.7||🇨🇳 China|
|#20||Wang Laichun||$12.7||🇨🇳 China|
|#21||Cheng Xue||$10.8||🇨🇳 China|
|#22||Massimiliana Landini Aleotti & family||$10.6||🇮🇹 Italy|
|#23||Denise Coates||$9.9||🇬🇧 United Kingdom|
|#24||Lam Wai Ying||$9.1||🇭🇰 Hong Kong|
|#25||Ann Walton Kroenke||$9.1||🇺🇸 United States|
|#26||Savitri Jindal & family||$8.7||🇮🇳 India|
|#27||Nancy Walton Laurie||$8.2||🇺🇸 United States|
|#28||Blair Parry-Okeden||$8.2||🇺🇸 United States|
|#29||Diane Hendricks||$8.0||🇺🇸 United States|
|#30||Christy Walton||$7.8||🇺🇸 United States|
|#31||Zhao Yan||$7.8||🇨🇳 China|
|#32||Zeng Fangqin||$7.6||🇨🇳 China|
|#33||Magdalena Martullo-Blocher||$7.5||🇨🇭 Switzerland|
|#34||Rahel Blocher||$7.4||🇨🇭 Switzerland|
|#35||Marie-Hélène Habert||$7.2||🇫🇷 France|
|#36||Pamela Mars||$7.2||🇺🇸 United States|
|#37||Victoria Mars||$7.2||🇺🇸 United States|
|#38||Valerie Mars||$7.2||🇺🇸 United States|
|#39||Marijke Mars||$7.2||🇺🇸 United States|
|#40||Sandra Ortega Mera||$7.1||🇪🇸 Spain|
|#41||Antonia Ax:son Johnson & family||$7.0||🇸🇪 Sweden|
|#42||Sofie Kirk Kristiansen||$6.9||🇩🇰 Denmark|
|#43||Agnete Kirk Thinggaard||$6.9||🇩🇰 Denmark|
|#44||Li Haiyan||$6.7||🇨🇳 China|
|#45||Ronda Stryker||$6.6||🇺🇸 United States|
|#46||Marie Besnier Beauvalot||$6.3||🇫🇷 France|
|#47||Zheng Shuliang & family||$6.2||🇨🇳 China|
|#48||Meg Whitman||$5.8||🇺🇸 United States|
|#49||Chan Laiwa & family||$5.8||🇨🇳 China|
|#50||Maria Asuncion Aramburuzabala & family||$5.8||🇲🇽 Mexico|
All data as of January 15, 2021 (9AM PST)
MacKenzie Scott, ranked #3 on the list, was heavily involved in the early days of turning Amazon into an e-commerce behemoth. She was involved in areas from bookkeeping and accounts to negotiating the company’s first freight contract. Her high-profile divorce from Jeff Bezos captured the headlines, notably because she gained control over 4% of Amazon’s outstanding shares.
The total value of these shares? An eye-watering $38.3 billion—propelling her to the status of one of America’s richest people.
However, MacKenzie Scott has more altruistic ventures in mind for this wealth. In 2020, she gave away $5.8 billion towards causes such as climate change and racial equality in just four months, and is a signatory on the Giving Pledge.
[Scott’s near $6 billion donation has] to be one of the biggest annual distributions by a living individual.
—Melissa Berman, CEO of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors
Looking towards the East, Yang Huiyan became the richest woman in Asia after inheriting 70% of shares in the property development company Country Garden Holdings. The company went public in 2007, raising $1.6 billion in its IPO—an amount comparable to Google’s IPO in 2004.
To aid frontline health workers during the pandemic, Country Garden Holdings set up robotic, automated buffet stations to safely serve medical staff in Wuhan, China.
While the 50 richest women in the world have certainly made progress, the overall tier of billionaires is still very much a boys’ club. One thing that also factors into this could be the way this wealth is spent.
As many female billionaires inherited their wealth, a large share are more inclined to contribute to charitable causes where they can use their money to make an impact. What percentage of billionaires by gender have contributed at least $1 million in donations over the past five years?
Made $1mm in donations over last 5 years (%)
|Source of wealth||👩 Female philanthropists||👨 Male philanthropists|
Meanwhile, male billionaires are more likely to donate to charity if they built the wealth themselves—and many companies that fall into this category certainly stepped up during the early days of the COVID-19 crisis.
Putting the Cost of COVID-19 in Perspective
Putting the Economic Cost of COVID-19 in Perspective
When it comes to the toll on human life, mental well-being, and any long-term complications, the true cost of COVID-19 can be difficult to quantify.
That said, from a purely economic angle, researchers can and do examine these things—as well as economic data like unemployment and lost GDP, to assign dollar figures to the pandemic.
Using data from a study out of Harvard University, these visualizations focus on putting the economic cost of COVID-19 in the U.S. in perspective. To help us understand the immense price associated with a pandemic, the study looked at other comparables like the costs of running America’s longstanding war on terror.
The Cost of COVID-19
Since the pandemic took hold in the U.S. in March 2020, job loss has been one of the most significant consequences. Unemployment claims in the U.S. have recently reached a total of 60 million, while lost GDP is estimated to be around $7.6 trillion.
Unemployment, uncertainty, lost loved ones, and lost social connections, have led to spikes in depression and anxiety. In April 2020, around 40% of U.S. adults reported having at least one of these mental illnesses. Based on the sheer number of people struggling, the cost of mental health impairment could be as high as $1.6 trillion, according to these researchers.
|Lost Gross Domestic Product (GDP)||$7,592|
|Long-Term Health Impairment||$2,572|
|Mental Health Impairment||$1,581|
The economic value of a human life can be put in terms of ‘statistical lives’, a notion used in both American and global health policy. While human life is priceless, the value tied to one using this metric sits between $7-$10 million. Even when using the lower end of the scale, the cost of premature death due to COVID-19 is estimated to be $4.4 trillion.
Finally, when looking at the long-term healthcare costs that could impact people who contract COVID-19, the price comes out to almost $2.6 trillion. These costs will go on for decades as certain lifelong conditions can emerge out of COVID-19, like respiratory and cardiovascular issues.
Many of these conditions could also end up causing premature deaths, drawing out the total cost of COVID-19 even further.
The Cost of War
Both a global pandemic and a war have long-term health consequences and are extremely pricey.
The estimated cost of the post-9/11 wars rises to over $6 trillion. This is measured by the spending of the Department of Defense, the Department of State, and USAID. The estimate also takes into consideration current and future spending on medical and disability care for veterans, the cost of war appropriations and spending, the estimated interest on borrowing for different departments, and the spending the Department of Homeland Security has done in order to prevent and respond to terrorism.
|Department of Defense||$1,959|
|Estimated Interest on Borrowing for DOD and State Dept OCO Spending||$925|
|Estimated Increases to DOD Base Budget Due to Post-9-11 Wars||$803|
|"OCO for Base” a new category of spending in FY2019 and FY2020||$100|
|Medical and Disability Care for Post-9/11 Veterans||$437|
|Homeland Security Spending for Prevention and Response to Terrorism||$1,054|
|Total War Appropriations and War-Related Spending through FY 2020||$5,409|
|Estimated Future Obligations for Veterans Medical and Disability FY2020 –FY2059||$1,000|
|Total War-Related Spending through FY2020 and Obligations for Veterans||$6,409|
Medical and disability care for veterans from the post-9/11 wars specifically comes out to $437 billion, with estimated future obligations for their care going up to $1 trillion.
The increases to the Department of Defense’s budget was $803 billion thanks to the post 9/11 wars, and the Department of Homeland Security has spent more $1.05 trillion on terrorism prevention and response.
While the costs associated with war are immense, and while the consequences of fighting in a war are usually lifelong, the estimated price is still about $10 trillion cheaper than the cost of COVID-19 in the United States.
Throwing Money at the Problem?
The short-term solution to COVID-19 seems to be vaccine investment, with the U.S. currently purchasing more than one billion doses. Vaccines could spell the return to a more normal life, both in terms of physical health and the health of the economy.
While economic recovery is on the horizon, the U.S—and other nations around the globe—will continue to pay the cost of COVID-19 for years to come.
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