A child who grows up in Pittsburgh, PA with parents who earn in the 10th percentile, ends up, on average, in the 40th percentile based on data from Raj Chetty and Nathaniel Hendren, Harvard, and Patrick Kline and Emmanuel Saez, U.C. Berkeley (interactive graphics by the NYTimes). These researchers are part of the Equality of Opportunity Project which finds (1) upward income mobility varies substantially within the U.S. Areas with greater mobility tend to have five characteristics: less segregation, less income inequality, better schools, greater social capital, and more stable families, (2) Contrary to popular perception, economic mobility has not changed significantly over time; however, it is consistently lower in the U.S. than in most developed countries.
Pittsburgh has one of the highest mobility rates compared to Atlanta or Memphis. As a whole, kids have a better chance rising out of poverty in the Northeast, Great Plains and West compared to the Southeast and industrial Midwest.
What are the policy implications for these findings? Racial discrimination is playing a role but investment in education and community development will result in poverty reduction and higher income mobility. Details, details, details.
"I wish to do something Great and Wonderful, but I must start by doing the little things like they were Great and Wonderful"