Skip to main content

Study: Rise from poverty to wealth happening more in Minnesota than elsewhere

  • Author:
  • Updated:

Perhaps if Horatio Alger were writing today his books would be set in Minnesota.

The novelist captivated 19th Century Americans with his rags-to-riches tales of people using toil and ingenuity to climb the economic ladder. According to a new report from a group of scholars who studied upward mobility, those sort of climbs are more common in Minnesota than nearly any other state.

The Washington Post reports the research found the chances that an American born into poverty will rise into wealth are about the same as they were 50 years ago. In other words, today's children seem no more – or less – likely to climb that economic ladder than their grandparents.

The Post reports the group led by Harvard's Raj Chetty examined millions of earnings records data back to the 1970s and incorporated data from a study that looked back to the '50s.

The researchers also broke down by county the likelihood that children in low-income families will make more money than their parents. Overall, they found that the children tend to make a little more but that upward mobility varies by region.

Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin were found to have the most counties where those children make far more than their parents. Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina have the most counties where the income of the generations is about the same.

The study also looked at America's 30 largest metropolitan areas, analyzing the chances that a child from a family in the bottom fifth of the economic ladder would end up in the top fifth. As a New York Times graphic shows, the chances of that happening in the Minneapolis area were 9 percent. That puts the Twin Cities 12th among the metro areas, less than the nearly 13 percent chance in San Jose but more than double the 4.4 percent chance in Charlotte.

So should the United States be considered the Land of Opportunity? In their executive summary the scholars say there's no clear answer to that. But given the geographic variation in upward mobility, they suggest the country is better described as a collection of societies. Some, they say, are indeed lands of opportunities, while in others few children seem to escape poverty.

A complete look at the study is available here.

Next Up

police lights

On the lam since 2007, suspect in MN murder case arrested in Florida

The suspect is one of three men connected to a fatal drive-by shooting on St. Paul's West Side.

Deer on road

Motorcyclist in collision with deer dies from injuries

The 55-year-old from Princeton died at a hospital a day after the crash.


Burnsville approves measure that will make its landfill much taller

The expansion will increase the landfill's allowable height by an additional 268 feet.

michael carbo

Northern MN man found guilty in 1980s cold case murder

Nancy Daugherty was found dead in the afternoon hours of July 16, 1986.

Red Ox Cafe

Breakfast spot in Ham Lake closes after decades in business

The business posted an announcement on its front door.

Screen Shot 2022-08-17 at 1.43.04 PM

St. Paul man killed partner, himself while their 5 kids were home

St. Paul confirmed the double shooting on Tuesday evening was murder-suicide.

Kids competing in USA Mullet Championships

Minnesota, Wisconsin kids competing in USA Mullet Championships

The contest is divided into kids and teens divisions.


One killed after being trapped under UTV near Alexandria

The Douglas County Sheriff's Office says the victim died at the scene.


What's in the Inflation Reduction Act signed by President Biden?

How the nation's biggest climate law will reduce emissions.

Patrick Henry High School

Patrick Henry High School in Minneapolis will get new name

A school board meeting was held this week, discussing what's next going forward.

Mike Max

Mike Max is out at WCCO Radio

Max got his start at WCCO Radio in 1998.

Pixabay - emergency room ambulance hospital

Uber passenger dies a week after fiery crash in St. Paul

Her Uber was struck by a suspected drunk-driver.