Equality of opportunity: See how where you live impacts where you're going

Published: Tuesday, Aug. 6 2013 11:54 p.m. MDT

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
The Equality of Opportunity Project, a study released in July of this year, examined upward mobility across metropolitan areas in the U.S. to show how the location in which children are raised can influence their chances of rising above the situation of their birth.

The study, which was put together by a team of academic economists, gives number breakdowns in absolute upward mobility, relative upward mobility and the odds of reaching the top fifth starting from the bottom fifth. For example, a child raised at the 25th percentile in national income distribution in Salt Lake City would wind up in the 46th percentile — shown as absolute upward mobility — in the national income distribution as an adult.

"Climbing the income ladder occurs less often in the Southeast and industrial Midwest, the data shows, with the odds notably low in Atlanta, Charlotte, Memphis, Raleigh, Indianapolis, Cincinnati and Columbus," The New York Times reported. "By contrast, some of the highest rates occur in the Northeast, Great Plains and West, including in New York, Boston, Salt Lake City, Pittsburgh, Seattle and large swaths of California and Minnesota."

According to Reuters, the study showed that Salt Lake City, Seattle and Pittsburgh saw roughly the same levels of upward mobility that Denmark and Norway show, despite the fact that the U.S. communities had "far higher levels" of inequality than those countries.

The Reuters article went on to say that even more notably, when children raised in these three areas in the U.S. climb to the top of the economic ladder, "they are actually climbing much further and faster than their Scandinavian counterparts who pull off the same feat."

Other study highlights from the Summary of Project Findings:

>> Areas with a smaller middle class had lower rates of upward mobility.

>> A high concentration of income in the top 1 percent was not highly correlated with mobility patterns.

>> Areas in which low income individuals were residentially segregated from middle income individuals were also particularly likely to have low rates of upward mobility.

>> The quality of the K-12 school system also appears to be correlated with mobility.

>> High upward mobility areas tended to have higher fractions of religious individuals and fewer children raised by single parents.

The New York Times also reported that larger tax credits for the poor and higher taxes on the wealthy appeared to only slightly improve mobility.

The study authors warned that their findings are, at this point, correlational and "cannot be interpreted as causal effects," and their work regarding mobility is ongoing. Click here to read more about the study.

Here's a look at mobility in the top 30 largest commuting zones.
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