Sam Friedman & I just published an article on The Class Ceiling in the United States in Social Forces. You can access the article at Social Forces here and the preprint if you need it is here.

The key finding (as you might guess from the title) is that people from working class origins earn less than those from privileged backgrounds who are in the same kinds of (very exclusive, generally high-authority and high-paying) jobs in the US. The gap is about $23,000, or very nearly a 23% earnings bonus for people who are doctors, lawyers, CEOs or etc whose parents had similar kinds of jobs. When we take into account all the things we can measure about the ways working-class-origin people in these top jobs are different from privileged-origin people (race, gender, age, experience, education, etc) we still see a class-origin pay gap of about $11,700, or 12%. They’re not directly comparable, but this is a WAY bigger gap than we found in the UK –   in the UK, the pay gap was about 10% before controls and 4% afterwards.


We start with a visualization of the class mobility & reproduction in the US over all, then look carefully at the intersections of race, gender and class .

It’s worth noting though that this overview obscures big differences by race, which I show (with Dawn Dow and Carolyn Chernoff) in a previous article in Socius. 






Class doesn’t exist in a vacuum, so it doesn’t make sense to analyze class without looking at race and gender as well (we focus on class because gender and racial pay gaps are well-established). We see clear evidence of a big gender pay gap and a more-than-double penalty for working-class origin women in these top jobs.





We also see that the class-origin-pay gap is not simply a masked racial pay gap – there’s a big penalty (about $18k) for working-class white people relative to privileged-origin white people. But racial gaps are even bigger: working-class origin white people’s predicted earnings are almost $23,000 (28%) higher than Black people with parents in the same set of routine/manual occupations.

Once we control for everything we can, we still see a class-origin pay gap of about $11,700.