Pew Studies Economic Mobility in the States

  • May 10, 2012
  • By Jim Malewitz

People living in a group of mostly Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic U.S. states are more likely than the average American to improve their economic status. But southerners are largely falling behind, according to a study released Thursday (May 10) by the Pew Center on the States, Stateline's parent organization.  

The study, which tracked economic mobility over a 10-year period in the 50 states and the District of Columbia, found that residents of Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Utah have “better” mobility. That means their earnings were more likely to grow over time and improve relative to their peers. 

Meanwhile, people living across much of the South were less likely to earn more money over time, and in some cases, more likely to see their earnings shrink.  States said to have “worse” mobility, according to the study,  included Louisiana, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina and Texas.

A wide range of factors influence economic mobility, the study's researchers say, including a person's savings and assets, access to higher education and neighborhood poverty during childhood. Such factors are often shaped by policy.

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

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