Intragenerational wage mobility and the social disadvantage: A comparative study of West Germany and the United States
This article studies wage mobility over the early careers in West Germany and the United States. Through an institutional lens, we examine (1) the extent of intragenerational wage fluctuations; (2) whether they structure into upward mobility trends or remains volatile variations; and (3) whether mobility trends align with classical stratification dimensions. We highlight three main findings. First, intragenerational wage fluctuations are stronger in the United States compared with Germany. Second, wage fluctuations translate into steeper trends of upward mobility in Germany, but the heterogeneity in wage trends across individuals and the year-to-year volatility around the individual trends are larger in the United States. Lastly, we find persistent intragenerational wage inequality by gender, social origin, education, and race. These results point toward the idea that higher wage fluctuations in the United States do not reflect opportunities for upward mobility but rather uncertainty around the prospects of progression.