The Best and Worst Counties for a Child’s Upward Mobility

The county in which a child grows up has a significant bearing on the amount of income he or she will earn later in life. That is the conclusion reached by Harvard economists Raj Chetty and Nathaniel Hendren, who recently studied economic mobility for children across the United States.

To determine the results, Chetty and Hendren analyzed data for millions of families who had moved from one county to another, examining the correlation between each county and the income earned as an adult. Based on the findings, they included a table showing the 25 best and worst counties for a child’s economic mobility.

Contra Costa, Ventura, San Mateo, and San Francisco were among the top 25. For every year a child spends in Ventura County, he or she adds around $100 to their annual household income after the age of 26, compared to children in the average American county. Some of the worst counties include San Bernardino, Riverside, Los Angeles, and Fresno.

There are five key factors that contribute to strong upward mobility, according to the researchers. These include less segregation by race and income, lower levels of income disparity, quality schools, less violent crime, and the number of two-parent households. The more of these characteristics a county shares, the more likely its children are to succeed.

“The broader lesson of our analysis is that social mobility should be tackled at a local level,” the researchers conclude.

Read the study here.



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