The New York Times has some interactive graphics showing various types of data about social class and class mobility. You can see where you fall in terms of four characteristics often used to measure class status, see the overall class breakdown for various occupations, and so on. This graph shows social class mobility by depicting which social class (divided into quintiles) the U.S. population fell into in 1998 based on the social class they started out in from 1988:

Picture 1

You can hover over a particular group, such as “lower middle,” to see the outcome just for them.

Another graph of social mobility:

Picture 2

This next graph counters the idea that poor families remain poor forever (often explained by some version of the “culture of poverty” thesis) by showing that if you track a poor family over multiple generations, there is a general trend toward upward mobility:

Picture 3

That isn’t to ignore the fact that being poor leads to circumstances (poor schools, etc.) that make upward mobility difficult. But the idea that poor families stay poor for generation after generation, passing on poverty almost like a genetic characteristic, simplifies a more complex story about how families become poor, how long they remain poor, and the importance of looking at structural factors as opposed to a “cycle of poverty” explanation.

Since Lisa shared an embarrassing story today, I’ll share one too: for some reason, I think because he had the album Purple Rain and was famous for wearing purple a lot, for the longest time I thought the book The Color Purple must be a biography about Prince.

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