Americans Are Unlikely to Rise Beyond the Station of Their Birth
3:00 pm, July 23rd | by Colette McIntyre
In a study being called the most intricate portrait of income mobility in the U.S., researchers found that Americans have very little chance of climbing the income ladder. The study most notably reports that the odds of a lower-income household rising into the middle class and beyond fluctuate dramatically with location.
According to the new study, which is based on millions of anonymous earnings records, affluent children tend to remain affluent: a third of people who grew up in the top 1 percent of the income distribution makes $100,000 in family income by the age of 30. Just one out of every 25 adults who grew up in the bottom half of the income distribution reach that same point.
The study also reports that economic mobility rates are partially determined by geography. In the Southwest and industrial Midwest, particularly in areas like Atlanta, Charlotte, and Cincinnati, it is substantially harder for low-income children to climb out of the economic class they were born into. Income mobility is highest in the Northeast, Great Plains, and the West, especially in metropolitan areas including New York, Boston, Salt Lake City, Pittsburgh, Seattle, and large parts of California and Minnestoa.
“Where you grow up matters,” study co-author and Harvard economist Nathaniel Hendren told the New York Times. “There is tremendous variation across the U.S. in the extent to which kids can rise out of poverty.”
Upward mobility rates aren’t necessarily dependent on higher average incomes, Hendren adds: rates can differ sharply in areas that have similar income levels, like Atlanta and Seattle.
As ThinkProgress points out in their coverage of the study, income inequality has grown significantly in almost every state over the past 30 years:
Across the country, the richest 20 percent make eight times more than the average income of the bottom 20 percent, a ratio that didn’t exist in a single state 30 years ago.
[Image via The New York Times]