Fact Sheet

Does Place Matter for Family Financial Security?

A snapshot of economic well-being in diverse U.S. neighborhoods


A growing body of research has shown that where Americans live is an important factor in their economic security and mobility. Previous studies commissioned or conducted by The Pew Charitable Trusts have found that states, metropolitan areas, and even neighborhoods can be critical drivers of people’s financial well-being; their attitudes toward their economic situations; and the gap in economic mobility between racial groups, particularly blacks and whites.

This fact sheet captures the findings of an analysis of data from Pew’s Survey of American Family Finances about people’s perceptions of their financial security as well as the demographics and the state of family balance sheets across the urban-rural continuum—from neighborhoods in big cities to those in small, country areas. Two findings in particular stand out as virtually universal across neighborhood types:

  • Less than a quarter of respondents said it is common to begin poor, work hard, and become wealthy.
  • More than 90 percent of survey participants said financial stability is more important to them than upward mobility.

These findings indicate that Americans differ in terms of demographics, wealth, and—in many cases— perceptions of financial security, depending on their location. But regardless of where they live, people across the urban-rural continuum share pessimism about economic opportunity.

Demographics and balance sheets

Although Americans across the urban-rural continuum share pessimism about economic opportunity, they differ in terms of demographics and the state of their balance sheets.