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This means that prosperous locales give poor children a disproportionate boost, on the one hand, but also that growing up in a distressed community disadvantages them relatively more, as well.
Adding population data to EOP’s county estimates, we find that prosperity and mobility (as well as distress and immobility) are most strongly correlated in rural areas—counties with under 100,000 people.
Prosperous rural areas can provide a significantly greater boost to children than even prosperous urban areas, suggesting that the quintessential engine of economic mobility may not be the urban melting pots of Horatio Alger-style myth, but rather the small town communities of the Upper Midwest.
Source: Raj Chetty and Nathaniel Hendren, “The Effects of Neighborhood on Intergenerational Mobility,” 2015.
Obtained from the Equality of Opportunity Project website, “Online Data Table 4 County Causal Effects,” in Summer 2016.
Nearly three-quarters of those (73 percent) have below-average spatial inequality scores, meaning well-being is broadly shared across zip codes.
These places represent the truest manifestations of the American Dream.
Thirty-two states have at least one such county, but Wisconsin leads the pack with 10, followed by New Jersey and Virginia with nine each and California with eight.
These prosperous, equal, and mobile counties also tend to exhibit extraordinary economic dynamism: Between 20, 96 percent of these counties experienced job growth, 80 percent saw a net gain in new businesses, and 88 percent increased in population.
The results are therefore best interpreted as whether, for example, a county that is prospering today has a history (or not) of boosting economic mobility.
Whether the county delivers on or defies past performance remains to be seen.