Mentor profiles and economic upward mobility for low-income youth


Gowdy, Grace (2018). Mentor profiles and economic upward mobility for low-income youth. 2018 Add Health Users Conference. Bethesda, MD.


In the U.S today, a low-income child is significantly less likely to complete be upwardly mobile than their middle-class peers (Chetty et al., 2014). Yet, the impact of informal mentors is stronger for low-income children than their middle-income peers (Erickson, McDonald, & Elder, 2009). This highlights the potential of informal mentors to supersede the intergenerational persistence of poverty, and promote upward mobility for low-income youth. Methodology: Qualitative coding & support provided. The nature of support provided by mentors will be captured through a single open-ended question asked in wave 3 of data collection, "How did [your informal mentor] help you?” These qualitative data will be coded for bridging and bonding capital. In addition to my coding of these data, a supplemental file of the Add Health dataset provides codes on social support. Both my coding of this data and the supplemental file provided by the Add Health study will be used for analysis. Cluster Analysis: In order to differentiate mentoring relationships from each other, I will use cluster analysis to create different mentoring profiles based on the following variables: how they met, how long they have known each other, how often they are in contact with each other, and how close the young person feels to the mentor. These profiles will then be tested for their association with upward mobility for low-income youth. Economic Mobility: Economic mobility is measured in this study as the difference in income group between wave 1 and wave 4, adjusted for inflation. The groups are (1) less than $25,000, (2) $25,000 to $49,999, (3) $50,000 to 74,999, (4) $75,000 to $99,999 and (5) over $100,000. Analysis: After creating mentoring profiles and using qualitative coding to build out support variables, I will test (1) if certain mentors can promote upward mobility more so than others and (2) if support provided by the mentor is a meaningful mediator to this association. Significance of Study: Children born to low-income and low-educated households are less likely to be upwardly mobile than their middle-class peers. Although evidence suggests that having a mentor can help youth be upwardly mobile in adulthood, this study will offer a more robust examination of this potential. We can use information on which informal mentors are more effective in promoting economic outcomes to acknowledge important differences between mentoring relationships.

Reference Type

Conference proceeding

Book Title

2018 Add Health Users Conference


Gowdy, Grace

Year Published


City of Publication

Bethesda, MD

Reference ID