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Now, EIG offers its latest contribution to the discussion.
Nationwide, across the 2,869 counties for which we have data, economic prosperity and economic mobility are positively and meaningfully correlated.
The correlation is stronger for children from poor backgrounds than it is for children from better-off ones.
Cities, however, are more consistent: 50 percent of large urban counties (those with more than 500,000 people) provide an income boost to poor kids, compared to only 43 percent of rural counties for which we have data.
Next we zoom in on the ends of the spectrum of American experiences by examining economic mobility in the country’s most prosperous and most distressed counties (the top and bottom quintiles of well-being on the DCI).
They controlled for a large number of individual and family characteristics in order to isolate the effect of place alone, which they call the “.” It measures the percent increase or decrease in income at age 26 relative to the national mean that a child can expect by spending one additional year in any given county.
Some counties have positive exposure effects (boosting incomes), some negative (reducing them)age 26 of children born from 1980 to 1986) by associating them with the prevailing economic conditions in counties from 2010 to 2014.This means that prosperous locales give poor children a disproportionate boost, on the one hand, but also that growing up in a distressed community disadvantages them relatively more, as well.Kids from wealthier backgrounds, by contrast, appear to have a stronger bulwark against negative effects of place.What emerges is a mosaic of places—an American reality in which the dual promises of prosperity and mobility fall into four categories depending on where one looks and where one lives: There are 420 counties where the American Dream is alive and well: places that are both prosperous and conducive to upwards economic mobility.Seventy-two percent of the country’s most prosperous counties fall into this category, supporting the correlation between prosperity and mobility.Where the economy thrives, people thrive, and vice versa.The coincidence of growth, mobility, and prosperity in these locales proves that the American Dream is more than a mirage.Adding population data to EOP’s county estimates, we find that prosperity and mobility (as well as distress and immobility) are most strongly correlated in rural areas—counties with under 100,000 people.Prosperous rural areas can provide a significantly greater boost to children than even prosperous urban areas, suggesting that the quintessential engine of economic mobility may not be the urban melting pots of Horatio Alger-style myth, but rather the small town communities of the Upper Midwest.Our analysis finds a clear correlation between the degree of prosperity or distress in a county and the extent to which it boosts or hinders the future earnings potential of the children who grow up there. counties exerting a negative impact on children’s future earnings, this analysis finds an American Dream unequivocally at risk.However, exceptions abound: Numerous ostensibly prosperous counties fail to boost economic opportunity for young people from poor backgrounds, just as a handful of economically distressed counties still manage to endow their children with the hard and soft skills needed to climb the ladder. Whether it goes on to further retreat or future renewal will depend on whether the recipe offered by places where it is alive and well proves replicable in the country’s less hopeful corners. While many like to think of the United States as a country where anyone willing to work hard can succeed, the reality for many is more complicated.