Upward Earnings Mobility in Hong Kong: Policy Implications Based on a Census Data Narrative

Minhui LIU*, Lok Sang HO, Kai Wai HUANG

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Using census data spanning several decades, this paper offers a new and intuitive approach to understanding earnings mobility. We use “mobility ratios” and “immobility ratios” as indicators of the speed of upward mobility at the top end (i.e. moving into the ranks of the well-off) and the bottom end of the income distribution (i.e. moving out of poverty) as each cohort ages. We demonstrate that in Hong Kong, relative income upward mobility did slow down considerably for those born 1976–1980 and after. The 1976–1980 cohort is a watershed, prior to which upward mobility was generally robust and after which upward mobility was significantly subdued. The later cohorts generally start off with a much lower percentage that is well-off and a much higher percentage that is poor. Given such a low base, the apparent existence of upward mobility is not much solace for the majority as many are stuck in poverty. The prospect of slower economic growth in the coming decade suggests that it is unlikely that their lifetime fortunes will be better than those of older cohorts.

本文提供了一种新的、可称为「类追踪调查」的研究方法,利用跨越数十年的人口普查数据来审视收入流动性的变化。我们提出 “流动比率”和 “滞留比率”这两个衡量收入流动性的指标,按每个群体年龄的增长观察进入收入分配的顶端(富人行列)或滞留在底端(贫困行列)的比例演绎向上流动速度的变化。我们发现,在香港,1976–1980 年及之后出生的人的相对收入向上流动性呈显着放缓。1976–1980 的年龄组是一个分水岭,在此之前出生的人口向上流动普遍强劲,之后向上流动明显减弱。一般而言,较晚出生的年龄群体在其青年阶段进入顶端收入行列的百分比更低,且有比之前群体高得多的百分比落入贫穷行列。鉴于这些群体的收入基数如此之低,即使流动比率显示向上流动机会存在,对他们大多数人来说却并没有意义,因为大部分人仍滞留在贫困的境地。由于香港未来十年经济增长可能持续放缓,这些群体终身的收入都不太可能高于早辈的终身收入。
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)214-230
Number of pages17
JournalChina Quarterly
Early online date16 Sept 2022
Publication statusPublished - 16 Mar 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Professor Wei Xiangdong and anonymous referees for their valuable comments and suggestions. This study is supported by the Pan Sutong Shanghai-Hong Kong Economic Policy Research Institute, Lingnan University.

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2022 The Author(s).


  • earnings mobility
  • poor rate
  • well-off rate
  • mobility ratio
  • census data
  • 收入流动性
  • 贫困率
  • 富裕率
  • 流动比率
  • 普查数据

Cite this