Where you grow up can hurt how far you rise
When it comes to climbing the economic ladder, certain parts of the country will put you at a distinct disadvantage.
Americans cherish the image of their country as the land of opportunity. No matter where you live, the thinking goes, anyone with gumption and elbow grease can make a success of themselves.
But a new study calls into question that belief because the researchers found that income mobility is actually hampered by geography. If you live in much of the South -- including big cities such as Atlanta and Memphis, Tenn. -- you're much less likely to see your income climb as are residents of the Northeast, the West and Great Plains, The New York Times notes.
The reasons don't appear to be linked to tax credits or taxes on the wealthy, however. Instead, economic gains may be linked to the quality of a region's schools, as well as its socio-economic diversity and its level of civic engagement.
The study considered millions of anonymous records from families in 1980-81, and then measured the income of their now-adult children in 2010-11. "Where you grow up matters," Nathaniel Hendren, a Harvard economist and one of the study's authors, told The Times. "There is tremendous variation across the U.S. in the extent to which kids can rise out of poverty."
For instance, a child growing up in Atlanta and whose family is in the 10th percentile of earners (making $16,000 per year) will on average end up in the 31st percentile of earners. However, a child from San Francisco with a similar family background will end up in the 41st percentile, the study found.
The report, which studied millions of earnings records, had some startling findings about what factors are or aren't important for upward mobility. For instance, income was only slightly affected by larger tax credits for the poor and higher taxes on the wealthy, The Times noted.
So, what did make a difference? The researchers found a few big issues. The first is how income is distributed across a geographic area, with upward mobility helped in cities that mix poor families with higher-income households.
Not surprisingly, cities with better elementary and high schools saw greater income mobility, as did those with more two-parent households and higher civic engagement.
The study also found that while regions with big black populations saw less upward mobility, it didn't boil down to race. Atlanta's white and black residents both suffer from a lack of income gains.
The cities with the highest mobility rates include Pittsburgh, Seattle, Wash., and Salt Lake City.
Still, the researchers cautioned that the findings "are correlational and cannot be interpreted as causal effects."
The report added: "There are some areas in the U.S. where a child's chances of success do not depend heavily on his or her parents' income. Understanding the features of these areas -- and how we can improve mobility in areas that currently have lower rates of mobility -- is an important question for future research."
Follow Aimee Picchi on Twitter at @aimeepicchi.
This victim mentality is penetrating every part of our society and it's killing us.
So the big solution is to live in an area with as few single parent households and as much income diversity as possible? In other words, move to the suburbs or a rural city if you want your kids to succeed. This shouldn't be big news to anyone living in urban ghettos... If your entire school district is composed of low income with a heavy proportion of ****ers, how do you expect your school district to attract and retain good staff? Its impossible...
IMO, the end of true public housing developments and rise of section 8 has exasperated income diversity. You used to have many quiet working class neighborhoods where there was quite a bit of income diversity, and the issues typically associated with low income areas like high crime were confined to a limited area making it easier to manage. Now, any reasonably affordable housing that gets rented is open to people with Section 8 vouchers. As the Section 8 mooches moved into those quiet working class neighborhoods and the crime followed, everyone with means got the heck out. Look at Detroit and Chicago for some good examples...
People are underestimating the value of the two parent household in all of this. Going to a private university (where I am on the Dean's list) I see first hand how much of an advantage kids get in life just from having two parents that offer emotional and financial support.
The two biggest challenges to getting ahead in life is emotional support and education. Technical jobs offer a lot of career advancement at any age, whereas if your interest is in the arts, you're pretty much screwed if you didn't begin acting at 13-17 and dancing by the age if twelve. That means ALOT of talent never comes to fruition in the world all because of economics! Not all career fields are created equally.
As for education, Harvard requires a 2.0 GPA! Compare the odds of a Harvard graduate getting ahead in life to someone with a 4.0 in a state college. Harvard will win every time.
I spent 10 years as a homemaker homeschooling a child with a heart defect. I used to get up at 5 a.m. to make breakfast for my mother as she got ready for work to feed her family as a single mom, but does any employer care about that? No, they dismiss me for not having enough work experience because apparently I need a degree in how to wait tables! Yet they repeatedly hire unprofessional and unhygienic teenagers. My brother is permanently disabled before the age of 30 due to his service in Iraq. He is now retired and living at the very bottom of our economic table. All of you who want to judge people for their struggles should count your blessings and try walking a mile in another's shoes before passing judgment because I've had to walk over a mile in temps below 10 degrees to get food for my family! How much have you had to do from your central air conditioning?
I have a 3.8 GPA and am in the top 90% of almost every subject on standardized testing. It hasn't given me a single benefit! I can't study theatre production because I'm 30 and didn't have access to theatre classes in high school. I will likely switch to Community College because university is expensive. I have the grades to get into almost ANY university I want but can't because I don't have $40,000-$60,000 a semester/year to pay for the tuition. Compare that to kids that get full scholarships just for being a minority!
Financial success has nothing to do with what the govenrment isn't doing for you. Its a cl****blem. Poor people have a very different culture than the middle & upper classes that doesn't do the up & coming generations any favors for financial success.
Do you know why they don't use forensic evidence in the courts of the deep southern states? Because a all the DNA is the same and there's only one tooth. The research for this story must have been done by professor obvious. The south is a stink hole who's politics, religion, and culture is holding this country back. If you live there are are offended by my remarks, I'd say start treating yourself and your country better by abandoning the ethics of ignorance that you currently embrace. Stop voting against your own best interests and join with the civilized people of your country in moving ahead.
"99% of your life is what you make of it, so if your life sucks, you suck"
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