Economic Mobility and the American Dream

This video is from The Pew Charitable Trusts’ Economic Mobility Project which focuses public attention on the ability to move up or down the economic ladder within a lifetime or from one generation to the next.

The video shows the difference between two measurements of economic mobility. It’s important to note that there are two ways of measuring economic mobility: absolute and relative. As the video states, each offers an understanding of the health and status of the American Dream; however, neither measure should be taken in isolation for a complete picture of economic mobility in our country.

The example of being on the escalator (starting at the 1:58 mark to the 2:30 mark) is a great visual aid. As the Pew explains:

“For more than two centuries, economic opportunity and upward mobility have formed the foundation of the American Dream, and they remain at the core of our nation’s identity. As policy makers seek to foster equality of opportunity, it’s critical that their decisions be informed by a robust and nonpartisan fact base on economic mobility.”

In addition to this eye-catching video, one might also observe that economic mobility is linked to our salaries or compensations for the work we do. Interestingly,

“Many experts now believe that money is a much more important motivator than was previously believed, more because of its inherent or symbolic value than because of what it can buy. . . . One recent study found that people who are more highly paid have higher job performance because the higher paycheck makes them feel more valued in the organization (i.e., they have a more positive self-concept)” (McShane & Von Glinow, 2010, p. 167).


McShane, S. L., & Von Glinow, M. A. (2010). Organizational behavior: Emerging knowledge and practice for the real world (5th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill/Irwin.

The Pew Charitable Trusts’ Economic Mobility Project.