Research on social mobility of low and moderate income families often uses objective measures and economic indicators of social mobility and quantitative research methods. In this paper we use a qualitative approach to understand how social mobility in terms of homeownership and desired neighborhood is pursued by 194 working families who received more than $1,000 in Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). Specifically, we use cumulative advantage and disadvantage theory to explore the pathways and threats families encounter in their attempts to achieve homeownership and residence in desired neighborhoods. We find that families use different strategies to achieve social mobility and that the most successful families follow multiple strategies that involve pathways used by more affluent families like savings and help from family and friends as well as using social and governmental program and rent-to-own agreements. We discuss the implication for families, social organizations, and policymakers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)26-39
Number of pages14
JournalResearch in Social Stratification and Mobility
StatePublished - Feb 2018


  • Homeownership
  • Low and moderate income families
  • Neighborhoods
  • Social mobility

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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