Class is (Most Likely) Destiny in the United States

Richard Florida reports on why America ranks second to last among first world nations for economic mobility; the Northeast remains the most mobile region of the country.
June 1, 2012, 1pm PDT | elmahoney
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The American mythology is founded on the idea that the poor, the hungry, and the destitute have the opportunity to rise above one's inherited circumstances and create a new destiny and prosperity from the sheer sweat of one's brow. Despite the persistence of this notion in society, America has become one of the least economically mobile countries in the world. It ranks below Canada, the majority of Europe, Singapore, and Pakistan. In Richard Florida's piece from The Atlantic Cities, he cites information from the New Republic and recent studies from the University of Ottawa, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, and the Brookings Institution that all conclude the United States is becoming increasingly connected with income heritability.

When the United States is broken into regional demographics, positive correlations exist between economic mobility and education spending per student, high school and college graduation rates, diversity, higher incomes, and a creative class. States with higher graduation rates, more immigrants, and openness to creativity and difference boasted the greatest economic mobility. Conversely, there is a negative correlation between religion, divorce, and teen pregnancy. States which ranked high in these categories had a low index of economic mobility.

The map is representative of divides between "red" and "blue" states. Although much has been made of the growing income gap and culture gap between these two groups, there is relatively little attention paid to the policy differences between states which foster these exceedingly disparate environments and opportunities between regions. The southern states have empirically trailed behind the Northeast as the economic driver of the nation. In an election year, perhaps it's time to start addressing the causes of this gap instead of declaring a color war.

Thanks to Elaine Mahoney

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Published on Thursday, May 31, 2012 in Atlantic Cities
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