Is your ability to move up affected by where you grow up?

That is, is it harder to break out of poverty and move into the middle or upper-middle class if you live in South Carolina than if you live in North Dakota? Atlanta or Boston?

The answer is yes, according to a study co-authored by two MIT economics alumni, Emmanuel Saez PhD ’99 and Nathaniel Hendren PhD ’12.

“Where you grow up matters,” Hendren, an assistant professor of economics at Harvard, recently told the New York Times. “There is tremendous variation across the U.S. in the extent to which kids can rise out of poverty.”

>>>Check your area’s mobility using an interactive map at the New York Times.

According to a Times article on the study, 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. 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.

Read the full article or download a white paper detailing the study’s conclusions.

Saez is a Professor of Economics and Director of the Center for Equitable Growth at the University of California Berkeley. In 2009, he received the John Bates Clark Medal as the country’s best academic economist under the age of 40.

The studies other co-authors include Raj Chetty of Harvard University and Patrick Kline of the University of California, Berkeley.


One comment

  1. It is an interesting study.  But a nod should be given to earlier work, such as my brother’s (Dr. Benjamin Goldman) landmark study and atlas on Toxicity and its impact on infant mortality based on location.  Called THE TRUTH ABOUT WHERE YOU LIVE addresses environmental factors and the proximity to industrial areas and their fence line impacts on abutting residents always very poor.  Has that information CHANGED since the 1991 publishing of that book.

    Jonathan Goldman M.S. Vis.St. ’85

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