For every 100 children born to a poor family in Iowa’s largest metropolitan area, Des Moines, about 11 will eventually reach the nation’s top quintile of income earners. In Indiana’s most populous metro area, Indianapolis, the rate is much less: Fewer than 5 of every 100 low-income children rise to the top rung of the income ladder.
These large variations in economic mobility occur across the country — among different cities, states and regions. What is the cause?
It is a question that has been raised as the result of recent groundbreaking research, and that has become part of a broader discussion about how real the “American Dream” actually is — the idea that people have equality of opportunity regardless of their economic status at birth. Comparative studies have shown, for example, that Americans are actually less economically mobile than populations in many European countries. And the recent findings that show huge differences in mobility within the United States have added a new wrinkle.