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The Obama Effect on Perceived Mobility

Christel Kesler () and Amber Churchwell ()
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Christel Kesler: Department of Sociology, Colby College, 4000 Mayflower Hill Dr, Waterville, ME 04901, USA
Amber Churchwell: Department of Sociology, Emory University, 201 Dowman Dr, Atlanta, GA 30322, USA

Societies, 2020, vol. 10, issue 2, 1-18

Abstract: Using American General Social Survey data from 1994 to 2018, this paper examines how Americans of different racial backgrounds perceive their past intergenerational mobility and their, and their children’s, prospects for future mobility, before, during, and after Barack Obama’s presidency. We find that White Americans are generally less positive than Black and Latinx Americans about mobility, especially their children’s mobility prospects. However, racial gaps in optimism widened considerably during the Obama presidency, due to a significant decline in White respondents’ perceived mobility. A more detailed analysis of White respondents’ views by levels of racial resentment and political partisanship shows that the Obama-era dip among White respondents is concentrated among those who are racially resentful and among Republican voters, two groups that substantially overlap. For these two groups, perceived future prospects for their and their children’s mobility increased again during the Trump administration. Black and Latinx respondents’ perceptions of mobility are stable across all earlier presidential administrations, but decline somewhat with the Trump presidency.

Keywords: social mobility; race; ethnicity; political partisanship; public opinion; racial resentment (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: A13 A14 P P0 P1 P2 P3 P4 P5 Z1 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2020
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