Missoula Trying to find a transmission place that might fix the old truck, I checked the headlines. Big story in the Times was the fact that a new economic mobility and demographic study by economists is establishing that it matters where you are born. Ok, now tell me the news?
Looking more deeply the sizzle on the headline was that if you were poor and born in New York, Boston, San Francisco, Seattle and other northeastern or western cities, you had a better chance if you started out poor of ending in the middle class than if you were born and raised in Atlanta or Charlotte, or Lord forbid, New Orleans or Little Rock.
Reading the charts, rather than the spin of the article, was even more depressing if you really care about the prospects of upward mobility for the poor. The charts indicate that either way, born in New York or Atlanta, your odds of moving up from the bottom to middle class were bad either way. So, sure in Atlanta you might only have a 5% shot, but in New York you only had a 9% shot. There are maybe some folks that care about a pissing match between the two cities, but for anyone who cares about social equality and economic justice in the United States, it is shocking that the odds are so low. The real study may be an indictment of rigid class stratification.
Certainly inescapable is the fact that fair housing or neighborhood diversity in urban areas is a central fact in allowing economic mobility, and this has not been an area seeing much progress in recent decades. Some myths will also fall by the wayside, like whether or not more colleges and lower tuition make a difference in economic mobility.
The least shocking news from the study was the fact that no matter where you are born, if you are born a 1%, then the best odds are that you will stay that way. In fact the economists found that there’s a 30% chance you will be making $100,000 in your 30’s. They could not explain why this was the case.
Wow. Most of us certainly could give them some clues!