Document Type


Publication Date


Publication Title

Research and Politics


Department of Government


Do Americans overestimate economic mobility? Using representative surveys of the public and local government officials, we assess claims of widespread misperceptions about economic mobility by measuring the accuracy of participants’ perceptions of both relative and absolute mobility. Republican members of the public and government officials are more optimistic than are Democrats about poor children’s chances of reaching the highest income quintile (relative mobility) and earning more than their parents (absolute mobility). Democrats also rate race and family wealth as more important to children’s chances than do Republicans. However, partisan tendencies to overestimate or underestimate mobility are roughly symmetric despite differences in optimism; we only observe small and inconsistent differences in belief accuracy by party for both the public and local officials. Finally, accuracy is no greater for perceptions of state and local mobility than at the national level.



Original Citation

Grossmann M, Hamann K, Lee J, Levy G, Nyhan B, Wu V. Republicans are more optimistic about economic mobility, but no less accurate. Research & Politics. April 2021. doi:10.1177/20531680211050506