Public Square

Can You Achieve the American Dream in Your State?

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If you started at the bottom, how likely are you to reach the top?

A new study by the Equality of Opportunity Project mapped the chance of upward mobility across the United States. The study measures the impact of tax expenditures on intergenerational mobility. A quick glance at the map below shows a wide spread.

Interestingly, the study finds that while chances of moving from the bottom income quintile to the top income quintile are extremely good in some areas of the United States, other areas are worse than any developed nation in the world.

Some areas have rates of upward mobility comparable to the most mobile countries in the world while others have lower rates of mobility than any developed country for which data are currently available.

For the major cities, Salt Lake City, Utah takes the win while Atlanta, Georgia falls in dead last. State-side, California is also winner since four of the top ten cities belong to California. In contrast, Ohio is a loser since three of the bottom ten cities belong to Ohio. Other counties show economic mobility more or less likely. What’s the correlation?

The study found that:

Geographical differences are modestly correlated with variation in tax expenditure policies across areas. But much variation in children’s success across areas remains to be explained, potentially by factors such as income segregation, school quality, or social capital. points out that the cities in the top ten are “hubs for the technology sector, social entrepreneurship, and youth culture.”

No matter how hard we work, sometimes the freedom to flourish can be compromised by bad public policy that creates a poor economic climate. As Christians, we must embrace a culture that values the entrepreneurial spirit, the sanctity of all work, and economic freedom so all might have an equal chance to flourish.

Where does your hometown rank on economic mobility? View an interactive version of the map here.

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Photo of Salt Lake City courtesy of Garrett Photography.

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