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.