Generational economic mobility in easy to read map form


I’m not going to be the first one to say this — you’d have to be blind not to notice it. Dixie is damn near a third-world hell-hole within our borders. We can argue about which fucked up idea caused most of it, and it’s seems fair to infer no one policy could fail quite this spectacularly, but there is no denying the anti-economic correlation between the know-nothing fundamentalist-ruled neo-confederate non-unionized racist deep south and the rest of the nation.


  1. Brandon says

    That big middle strip of the country that has the strongest economic mobility pretty know-nothing fundamentalist-ruled too. I think perhaps you’re noting the correlations that line up with your own biases (and mine, since I basically agree with you), and ignoring the ones that contradict it. Kansas, Utah, the Dakotas, and Texas aren’t known for their progressive ways, yet here they are with strong economic mobility. Asking “why?” seems pretty important.

  2. Pierce R. Butler says

    Clicking through to the source (NY Times) produces an interactive version of the above map, with data on a metropolitan level popping up on mouseover.

    Apparently, Nome, Alaska, has the lowest upward economic mobility, at 2.2%. The problem zones correlate very strongly with areas of highest black and Native American populations (racial issues barely mentioned in accompanying story).

  3. maudell says

    I think the map is a bit misleading (obviously, economic mobility is dismal is the US no matter what).

    They’re talking 1/5 lowest to 1/5 highest bracket. Isn’t just the depth of the brackets really different from one place to the other? It seems like directly comparing percentages between states gives an impression of equivalency.

    I guess I’m just trying to make sense of the high numbers. What does it mean, “35% chance of moving to the top 5th bracket”? Certainly not 1 in 3 of the poorest children will become the richest adults. If so, it’ll be crowded up there (head explodes).

  4. ryangerber says

    Love how they listed lots of countries with more economic mobility, but didn’t bother to give the numbers.

  5. Pen says

    Even 35% economic mobility does not seem that great. Having said that, to know if you have a third world hell hole you have to look at real poverty levels, not just mobility. From my observations, the US has third world hell holes in Indian reservations, trailer parks, inner cities and poorer suburbs everywhere I’ve been. It wouldn’t really matter if 4% or 35% of kids rise out of them, if it means someone else falls in.

  6. enki23 says

    Fracking/oil boom areas are blue. That will be very, very short-lived. Also, remember that the “top fifth” covers an enormous range of incomes, while “bottom fifth” does not, due to a zero lower bound. You have some small fraction of poor kids making it as doctors, lawyers or engineers, or some swinder-class sales job, and making it into the very low echelons of the top quintile. Very little of anything else. And even that is a slim chance, by the numbers.

  7. cazfans says

    Whoa! Guys this study goes over 20 – 30 years so the economics were different, though some of the ghettos were not. There may have been oil in North Dakota, but I don’t think fracking was big back that far, though it was known, just too expensive compared to the price of a barrel thus extracted. The location data are for where 30 year olds were raised, not where they live now. Those middle of the country states were infamous for not being able to keep their kids. My guess is that if you leave home, you don’t do so randomly; you try to optimize; if you are happy where you are or are unable to move, you may pass up better opportunities. Also bottom quintile to top is a loong raise. Assuming that farmers and folks on reservations are particularly likely to be bottom fifth (both are guesses), just changing occupations may have much to do with the move up.

  8. Robert B. says

    Even 35% economic mobility does not seem that great.

    It doesn’t? The null hypothesis – “being raised in the bottom quintile of income has no effect on your chances of reaching the top quintile” – would predict 20%. Anything higher than that means either that being raised in poverty makes you more likely to be rich when you grow up than the rich kids (ha!) or that there’s some kind of local disruption going on and it won’t last. 35% in this context is WAY too high, it means somebody else is getting screwed.

  9. Sauls Thomas says

    for the fake ANGLO-SAXON MONARCHY,54144.0.html

  10. jakc says

    @pierce butler. Its easy to identify Indian reservations on this map (Pine Ridge, Rosebud, Standing Rock and others) versus say oil and coal counties in the west

  11. Pen says

    @9 Ah yes, good point. I was actually thinking about it in the same terms I criticised: if you start off in the gutter you have only a 35% chance of getting out of it. Whereas there will always be a lowest fifth, even if they are living pretty high. Quite.

  12. lorn says

    Those blue sections in the middle are the result of fracking in location with populations previously so low that some of the counties in those ares had difficulty not being classified as wilderness. You take a location with precious few people, and very few jobs, and have yourself an oil boom with outsiders coming in and a temporary job bubble, it kind of looks like healthy upward mobility. Of course once the wells are in and the infrastructure to haul off the results is completed most of those jobs will evaporate.

    If you start out with next to nothing and add a little bit it is easy to show great gains on a percentage basis. On the other hand, if you have an established economy shifting the percentages is a lot harder.

  13. Ben P says

    Also bottom quintile to top is a loong raise. Assuming that farmers and folks on reservations are particularly likely to be bottom fifth (both are guesses), just changing occupations may have much to do with the move up.

    Not necessarily? on both points.

    Nationally the fifth quintile breaks in at about $100,000. That varies by geography, but you also can’t give geography too much weight because that’s what produces the absurd results like thinking $300,000/yr is middle class.

    Going from poverty to $100,000 a year is a huge jump for an individual, but it’s not out of reach for any number of educated professions. For a child, it’s a matter of what percentage of kids can get the education and work drive necessary to get into those professions and have a modicum of success.

    And as to Farmers. I live in some serious farm country, and what you find is that the “farmers” i.e. the people that own farms, tend to do pretty well for themselves. They’re not necessarily wealthy, but they’re definitely not poor. On the other hand, in almost every agriculture heavy area, you have the “farmers” and then a larger population of farm hands/workers that are typically employed 5-6 months out of the year, paid minimum wage (or lower in cash under the table).

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