Press Release

Pew Finds States in Mideast & New England Have Better Economic Mobility Than National Average; States in South Have Worse


Economic Mobility of the States, released today by Pew's Economic Mobility Project, is the first time research has identified where in the country Americans are more likely to move up or down the earnings ladder. Eight states, primarily in the Mideast and New England regions, have higher upward and lower downward mobility than the nation as a whole, while states in the South have consistently lower upward and higher downward mobility. To access an interactive tool displaying the data and for more information, please visit

“When it comes to achieving the American Dream, it matters where you live,” said Erin Currier, project manager of Pew's Economic Mobility Project. “Understanding that mobility rates differ by state is the first step towards helping policy makers pinpoint what enhances their residents' mobility.” 

Economic Mobility of the States evaluates economic mobility in three ways, including absolute mobility – measuring residents' average earnings growth over time – as well as upward and downward relative mobility – measuring people's rank on the ladder relative to their peers. Those states that rank above the national average on at least two measures are considered “better” and those that are below on at least two are considered “worse.”

Those states that have “better” mobility include:

  • Maryland, New Jersey, and New York on all three measures investigated; Connecticut, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Utah on two of the three measures.

Those states that have “worse” mobility include:

  • Louisiana, Oklahoma, and South Carolina on all three measures investigated; Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, and Texas on two of the three measures.

The results of the study also did not change based on whether Americans were grouped by their birth states or the states they were living in at the time of the survey. In other words, geographic mobility – whether people born in a particular state stayed there or moved elsewhere – does not drive overall state differences in economic mobility. It does matter, however, on an individual level; those who moved out of their birth states had better mobility outcomes on average than those who did not.

Background: This study investigates Americans' mobility prospects during their prime working years – the 10-year span between ages 35-39 and 45-49. The research focuses on individuals born between 1943 and 1958, with the most recent data coming from 2007. The data is drawn from the Survey of Income and Program Participation and the Social Security Administration. All of the research conducted with confidential Census Bureau data was performed by Dr. Bhashkar Mazumder, senior economist in the economic research department, with assistance from Jonathan M. V. Davis, senior associate economist, both of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. Any opinions and conclusions expressed herein are those of The Pew Charitable Trusts and do not necessarily represent the views of the U.S. Census Bureau. All results have been reviewed to ensure that no confidential information is disclosed.

By forging a broad and nonpartisan agreement on the facts, figures and trends related to mobility, the Economic Mobility Project is generating an active policy debate about how best to improve economic opportunity in the United States and to ensure that the American Dream is kept alive for generations that follow. For more information, visit

Pew is a nonprofit organization that applies a rigorous, analytical approach to improve public policy, inform the public and stimulate civic life.