A child born in the bottom fifth by income around here has a better chance of reaching the top fifth than in Atlanta. But that’s not saying much. And we can change this.
David Leonhardt wrote for NY Times 22 July 2013, In Climbing Income Ladder, Location Matters: A study finds the odds of rising to another income level are notably low in certain cities, like Atlanta and Charlotte, and much higher in New York and Boston. 4.3% Valdosta MSA vs. 4.0% Atlanta MSA. But 5.9% Brunswick, 6.0% Vidalia, and 8.8% Elijay. That’s the highest in Georgia.
Pretty much anywhere in Florida is higher than 4.3%.
Then there’s 11.2% San Francisco, 11.5% Salt Lake City, and 33.1% from Williston, North Dakota.
This appears to be the actual study: The Economic Impacts of Tax Expenditures: Evidence From Spatial Variation Across the U.S., by Raj Chetty, Nathaniel Hendren, Patrick Kline, and Emmanuel Saez. 2013.As Bill Moyers notes:
Geography matters much less for the children of well-off parents — who tend to do well across the board — but for those at the bottom of the ladder….
So to raise upward mobility, raise the pay of the bottom fifth.
The study includes a number of other hints, according to the NY Times story:
But the researchers identified four broad factors that appeared to affect income mobility, including the size and dispersion of the local middle class. All else being equal, upward mobility tended to be higher in metropolitan areas where poor families were more dispersed among mixed-income neighborhoods.
Income mobility was also higher in areas with more two-parent households, better elementary schools and high schools, and more civic engagement, including membership in religious and community groups.
Regions with larger black populations had lower upward-mobility rates. But the researchers’ analysis suggested that this was not primarily because of their race. Both white and black residents of Atlanta have low upward mobility, for instance.
Which do we want most around here, cheap labor, or community, education, and prosperity for all?