Potential Data Sources for a New Study of Social Mobility in the United States

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In this article I define the main criteria that ought to be considered in evaluating the costs and benefits of various data resources that might be used for a new study of social and economic mobility in the United States. These criteria include population definition and coverage, sample size, topical coverage, temporal issues, spatial issues, sustainability, financial expense, and privacy and data access. I use these criteria to evaluate the strengths and weakness of several possible data resources for a new study of mobility, including existing smaller-scale surveys, the Current Population Survey, the American Community Survey, linked administrative data, and a new stand-alone survey. No option is perfect, and all involve trade-offs. I conclude by recommending five possible designs that are particularly strong on the criteria listed above.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)208-246
Number of pages39
JournalAnnals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 19 2015


  • Data resources
  • Record linkage
  • Social mobility

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