Monday, July 22, 2013

Location Matters

Fascinating article in the New York Times: In Climbing Income Ladder, Location Matters. The article describes a study that maps intergenerational economic mobility by metropolitan area. The finding: location matters. Economic mobility is low in Atlanta, Charlotte, Raleigh, and other southeastern metros and in midwestern metros such as Indianapolis, Columbus, and Cincinnati. Economic mobility is high  in a number of metros in the Northeast and West such as New York, Boston, Pittsburgh, and Seattle.

The differences are not negligible, as the Times' David Leonhardt reports: "Parts of the country with the highest mobility rates—like Pittsburgh, Seattle, and Salt Lake City—have rates roughly as high as those in Denmark and Norway, two countries at the top of the international mobility rankings. In areas like Atlanta and Memphis, by comparison, upward mobility appears to be substantially lower than in any other rich country."

It would be interesting to see these findings overlaid with the Census Bureau's database on metro density moving outward from city hall. The Times article suggests that economic mobility is more difficult in sprawling metros. And what about the geography of metros themselves? Do flat metros encourage sprawl and hilly metros encourage density, boosting opportunity?

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