The key philosophy of the American spirit is the notion that wealth can be achieved despite your economic background. However, a new study threatens this ideology, with findings showing that location can greatly impact your odds of income mobility, reports The New York Times.
Children raised in families making less than $25,000 a year often have a 10 percent chance of climbing the economic ladder. However, the probability of upward income mobility is substantially lower in the Southeast and industrial Midwest. According to economists from Harvard and UC Berkeley, for kids raised in cities including Atlanta, Charlotte, or Indianapolis, their odds drop down to nearly four percent. Residents of Memphis face a painful 2.6 percent chance of escaping poor economic conditions.
The Northeast, Great Plains, and the West, on the other hand, present fewer barriers for climbers to reach the peak of the income ladder. Cities such as New York, Boston, and Salt Lake City have better opportunities for low socioeconomic residents to reach new heights on the income scale. These regions of high mobility rates are almost as high as those in Denmark and Norway, the “two countries at the top of the international mobility rankings,” adds the NY Times. A low income child in Seattle has a 10.4 percent chance of rising to another income level. In fact, poor children in Seattle “have more or less the same future income opportunities as middle-class children born in Atlanta, a low mobility city,” The Huffington Post says. North Dakota has the most impressive percentages with poor residents of Dickinson having a 31.7 percent chance of upward income mobility.
“Where you grow up matters. There is tremendous variation across the U.S. in the extent to which kids can rise out of poverty,” Nathaniel Hendred, one of the study’s authors, told the NY Times.
The odds of acquiring middle-income status or higher was more prevalent in areas with “two-parent households, better elementary schools and high schools, and more civic engagement, including membership in religious and community groups,” adds the Times.
While the study also found that areas in the U.S. with larger African-American populations had lower income mobility, analysis shows this is not based on race. White and Black residents are both plagued with low social mobility.
The study also concludes that residents of metropolitan areas have a better chance of escaping low socioeconomic status because of better transit systems. As observed in Atlanta, which has an upward mobility rate of four percent, “a weak public-transit system make it difficult to get to the job opportunities,” the Times says.