The Deep South -- Where the American Dream Goes to Die

David Leonhardt has a fantastic piece about social mobility in the United States. It turns out that the American Dream, while getting more and more distant across the board, is still much more possible in some places than in others. What places? Well, surprise surprise:




Climbing the income ladder occurs less often in the Southeast and industrial Midwest, the data shows, with the odds notably low in Atlanta, Charlotte, Memphis, Raleigh, Indianapolis, Cincinnati and Columbus. By contrast, some of the highest rates occur in the Northeast, Great Plains and West, including in New York, Boston, Salt Lake City, Pittsburgh, Seattle and large swaths of California and Minnesota.

“Where you grow up matters,” said Nathaniel Hendren, a Harvard economist and one of the study’s authors. “There is tremendous variation across the U.S. in the extent to which kids can rise out of poverty.”

Here it is in map form:



Kevin Drum comments:

There are several regions that are above and below average, but the obvious outlier is the deep South. This is yet another reminder of a lesson from politics: never look solely at nationwide data. Politically, this means that the South votes fundamentally differently from everyone else. Working class whites, for example, aren't actually a big problem for Democrats. Only Southern working class whites are a big problem. When it comes to mobility, apparently the same thing is true. If you look solely at nationwide trends, you'll miss the fact that one particular region is way, way different than the others. Poor kids don't exactly have a great chance in life no matter where they live, but in the South, they have almost no chance at all. If you take a look at the policy preferences of Southern governors and legislatures, that's apparently exactly the way they like it.

Obviously, race plays a huge part in this. But mobility for poor whites in the South is terrible as well.

Conservative policies are quite literally killing the American Dream.

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