In a series of stories, the Star Tribune uses the life trajectories of three Minnesotans as examples of the promise and challenge of income mobility in the Midwest.
Mobility Partnership member Raj Chetty and his colleagues at the Equality of Opportunity Project calculate that among the 100 counties with the highest level of income mobility for children born into poverty, 77 are in Iowa, Nebraska, Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota. “The rural areas seem to produce really good outcomes for kids from low-income families,” Chetty told the Star Tribune. “Minnesota actually looks very much like Denmark,” a country with high rates of income mobility.
Articles in the series focus on three people who either grew up in or are now looking for opportunity in Minnesota: Enthropic Burnett, a mother from the South Side of Chicago; Sylvia Hilgeman, an FBI investigator in New York who grew up on a farm in northwest Minnesota; and Kendrick Bates, a single father from Mississippi, two semesters short of a college degree, struggling to work, study, and raise two daughters in south Minnesota.
Their stories illustrate broader themes. Many small towns and suburbs have higher rates of mobility. That is likely due in part to greater social cohesion and lower levels of inequality compared to urban areas. But to move up the income scale, many, like Hilgeman, have to physically relocate. For those looking to move into higher-opportunity areas that have some of the characteristics of the town where Hilgeman spent her early years, housing costs can put quality neighborhoods and resources out of reach. That is true even for families like Burnett’s and Bates’, who are among the relative few to receive housing vouchers.
You can read the series here.