The New York Times published an article today by David Leonhardt detailing the results of a study that show that location isn’t only important in business. According to the article, in certain parts of the country, rising from the lower class to the middle class is harder or easier depending on where you happen to live. Cities like Atlanta, Memphis and Charlotte have relatively low likelihoods that a child raised in the bottom 5th percent of family incomes will rise to the top fifth percent, while the chances are much higher in cities like Pittsburgh, Salt Lake City and San Francisco.
The article points out that the effect doesn’t appear to be race related, as children of both black and white families in places like Atlanta faced similar odds in moving up the income ladder. It also had nothing to do with the average income in a location; average income in Seattle and Atlanta are similar, yet the poor children in Seattle faired equally compared to middle-class children in Atlanta.
Check out the graphic below and see where you live. In general, the industrial Midwest and the South fair poorly, but the differences are fairly striking.