Upward Wealth Mobility: Exploring the Roman Catholic Advantage

Wealth inequality is among the most extreme forms of stratification in the United States, and upward wealth mobility is not common. Yet mobility is possible, and this paper takes advantage of trends among a unique group to explore the processes that generate mobility. I show that non-Hispanic whites raised in Roman Catholic families have been upwardly mobile in the wealth distribution in recent decades, and I find that unique fertility, marriage and education patterns contributed to this change. I also show that Catholic values related to work and money contributed to relatively high saving and portfolio behavior that facilitated mobility. The results provide important insight into the process by which childhood experiences shape adult well-being, particularly adult wealth ownership. The findings also contribute to understanding of social inequality by identifying important behaviors and processes that facilitate mobility.