Upward mobility varies by state, study says

Upward mobility

Upward mobility: the man at the bottom works the broom. A new study says he can climb easier in some states than others. Image: emproises/Flickr/CC BY-ND

According to a new study, the first of its kind ever compiled, it is easier to move up economically in some states than it is in others. As a rule, upward mobility is more achievable in the northern East Coast states.

‘The Economic Mobility Project’

The study, called “The Economic Mobility Project,” looked at upward mobility by states. It was released Friday by the Pew Center on the States. In terms of the report, “upward mobility” refers to those whose earnings are more likely to increase over time, in relation to their peers.

North vs. South

The report showed that residents of Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Utah have the best chance of achieving greater wealth in their lifetimes.

But the average resident of Louisiana, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina and Texas will have a much harder time moving up the economic ladder, according to the report.

Erin Currier, the author of the study, was quoted in the Chicago Tribune:

“When it comes to achieving the American Dream, it matters where you live.”

Birth state not a factor

The good news is that a consumer doesn’t have to be born in one of the top states to reap its benefits. The data indicates that it could still be economically beneficial to move to one of the those states. About a third of those who reside in states other than where they were born have increased their economic mobility, said the study.

First study of its kind

The study was the first to look at economic mobility on a state-by-state basis. It looked at more than 10 years of U.S.Census and Social Security Administration data for about 65,000 individuals. The data examined was from all 50 states and Washington, D.C., covering the years 1978 to 2007. Each state was weighed against the regional and national averages.

Data could shape policy

The report reaches no conclusions about why some states perform better than others in terms of economic advancement. However, Currier said that past studies have shown that whether an individual experienced prosperity or poverty during childhood and their level of education are huge factors in determining financial mobility. These factors affect, and are affected by, public policy.

Currier hopes his report will give policy makers more information to work with. He said:

“Understanding that mobility rates differ by state is the first step towards helping policy makers pinpoint what enhances their residents’ mobility.”


Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Chicago Tribune


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