Income Mobility by Location

Your chances of escaping poverty differ quite a bit by what region of the United States you live in. The map shown plots the chances of a child born into a family in the bottom fifth of income in America rising to the top fifth in income during adulthood. The data is from a study by a group of economists from Harvard and UC Berkeley.

Climbing the income ladder occurs less often in the Southeast and industrial Midwest, the data shows, with the odds notably low in Atlanta, Charlotte, Memphis, Raleigh, Indianapolis, Cincinnati and Columbus. By contrast, some of the highest rates occur in the Northeast, Great Plains and West, including in New York, Boston, Salt Lake City, Pittsburgh, Seattle and large swaths of California and Minnesota.

“Where you grow up matters,” said Nathaniel Hendren, a Harvard economist and one of the study’s authors. “There is tremendous variation across the U.S. in the extent to which kids can rise out of poverty.”

That variation does not stem simply from the fact that some areas have higher average incomes: upward mobility rates, Mr. Hendren added, often differ sharply in areas where average income is similar, like Atlanta and Seattle.  

The original study found that intergenerational income mobility is "modestly correlated" with tax expenditures, but a lot of the variation is due to other factors yet to be studied. See more and larger maps at the New York Times. Link -via Metafilter


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I would've thought that racism played a big factor, but the author noted that both white and black residents of Atlanta have low upward mobility.

This particular passage struck me, however:

In previous studies of mobility, economists have found that a smaller percentage of people escape childhood poverty in the United States than in several other rich countries, including Canada, Australia, France, Germany and Japan. The latest study is consistent with those findings.

So much for the American dream, I suppose.
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