Evaluating Upward Mobility: The Fading American Dream

Understand factors that impact socioeconomic growth

Join Harvard Professor Raj Chetty in this course to understand the history of socioeconomic mobility and how geography plays a role in access to opportunity.

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4 weeks
1–2 hours per week
Certificate Price
Program Dates
Start Evaluating Upward Mobility today.

What You'll Learn

"Those who pursue the American Dream believe that no matter how much they accomplish, there is always something better to strive for." – F. Scott Fitzgerald

Many families in the United States dream of a future where children will surpass their parents’ wealth and seek a higher standard of living, through economic mobility, better education, and increased earning potential. While that may have been a reality for some in the mid-20th century, the “American Dream” is drastically fading– highlighting even greater socio-economic divides.

While researchers have explored the many contributing factors to this decline, the answer is not a simple one. The rise of inequality in the United States is a strong indicator of the decline in mobility and often is impacted by geographic location, quality of education, and household size and income.

In Evaluating Upward Mobility: The Fading American Dream, you will explore these factors in detail in order to understand the historical characteristics of high-mobility groups and factors that impact growth, like geography and access to opportunity. Using big data sets and data science, you will learn to compare trends across the U.S. and understand the causal effect of policies that can expand opportunities in specific neighborhoods. By the end of this course, you will have a foundational understanding of how big data can be used to measure mobility and solve social problems.

The course will be delivered via edX and connect learners around the world. By the end of the course, participants will be able to:

  • Explore the history of the American Dream—where children often grew up to financially outperform their parents—and why that dream has faded.
  • Understand why upward mobility has geographically shifted significantly and what led to those changes.
  • Study the characteristics of places with high upward mobility by looking at historical data and the price of opportunity.
  • Compare economic mobility trends across the U.S. and other countries around the globe.

Your Instructor

Raj Chetty, PhD, is the William A. Ackman Professor of Public Economics at Harvard University and Director of Opportunity Insights. His research uses “big data” to understand how we can give children from disadvantaged backgrounds better chances of succeeding. Chetty's research combines empirical evidence and economic theory to help design more effective government policies. His work on topics ranging from tax policy and unemployment insurance to education and affordable housing has been widely cited in academia, media outlets, and Congressional testimony. He has received numerous awards for his research, including a MacArthur "Genius" Fellowship and the John Bates Clark medal, given to the economist under 40 whose work is judged to have made the most significant contribution to the field.

Ways to take this course

When you enroll in this course, you will have the option of pursuing a Verified Certificate or Auditing the Course.

A Verified Certificate costs $149 and provides unlimited access to full course materials, activities, tests, and forums. At the end of the course, learners who earn a passing grade can receive a certificate. 

Alternatively, learners can Audit the course for free and have access to select course material, activities, tests, and forums. Please note that this track does not offer a certificate for learners who earn a passing grade.

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