Moving On Up to the Northeast Side: Where Can You Climb the Income Ladder?

It’s time to ask yourself if your career’s in the right place—not figuratively, but physically.

If you aim to climb the income ladder in the United States, your best bet might be to move north and east—and definitely stay out of the south.

A new study from the Pew Charitable Trusts Economic Mobility Project—check out the group's nice interactive map—compares the ability of people to increase their average earnings over time in all 50 states and regions across the country.

With increasing concern over income inequality, the ability of Americans to work their way to top is an important question. Figuring out who is able to raising their standard of living and who isn’t is the first step toward figuring out how to give everyone a fair shot at prosperity.

The Pew researchers say this is the first time anyone has attempted a study of this depth, following Americans from age 35 to 39 for 10 years—the prime of their working lives, more or less—assessing how their income levels changed and adjusting the results for inflation. Then they combined three different measurements, including absolute change in income—whether people moved up or down the ladder relative to their peers—for a comprehensive ranking.

The Pew folks found a few states in the northeast far outperforming the rest of the country in mobility—New York, New Jersey, and Maryland were the clearest winners, with Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania not far behind. In New York, average income grew 20 percent over a decade, three points above the national average of about 17 percent.

Oklahoma, Lousiana, and South Carolina had the worst mobility, followed by a group including Alabama, Florida, and Kentucky. Oklahoma saw the average income of its residents rise only 14 percent.

The researchers didn’t attempt to explain the secret sauce that set apart the states and regions where residents found more economic mobility, but that’s the next step for others interested in the question. The results do suggest that some combination of public policy, local industry, and geography play a part in making physical location matter to one's ability to scramble up the greasy pole.

"The fact that different state residents experienced different rates of mobility means where you live matters," Erin Currier, the director of Pew’s economic mobility project, told NPR.

One important result of that finding: People who moved to another state were more likely to see a large bump in income. This fits with a larger body of research that shows that people who are more geographically mobile are also more economically mobile—which make sense, since place matters.

You can read more about why moving matters in GOOD 027, our migration issue, on newsstands May 27 and on the web in early June.

In meantime, maybe it’s time to ask yourself if your career’s in the right place—not figuratively, but physically.

Chart courtesy of the Pew Economic Mobility Project


When former Pittsburgh Steelers' center Mike Webster committed suicide in 2002, his death began to raise awareness of the brain damage experienced by NFL football players. A 2017 study found that 99% of deceased NFL players had a degenerative brain disease known as CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy). Only one out of 111 former football players had no sign of CTE. It turns out, some of the risks of traumatic brain injury experienced by heavily padded adults playing at a professional level also exist for kids with developing brains playing at a recreational level. The dangers might not be as intense as what the adults go through, but it can have some major life-long consequences.

A new PSA put out by the Concussion Legacy Foundation raises awareness of the dangers of tackle football on developing brains, comparing it to smoking. "Tackle football is like smoking. The younger I start, the longer I am exposed to danger. You wouldn't let me smoke. When should I start tackling?" a child's voice can be heard saying in the PSA as a mother lights up a cigarette for her young son.

Keep Reading Show less
via Gage Skidmore / Flickr

On Tuesday morning, President Trump tweeted about some favorable economic numbers, claiming that annual household income is up, unemployment is low, and housing prices are high.

Now, just imagine how much better those numbers would be if the country wasn't mired in an economy-killing trade war with China, bleeding out trillion-dollar-a-year debts, and didn't suffer from chaotic leadership in the Oval Office?

At the end of tweet, came an odd sentence, "Impeach the Pres."

Keep Reading Show less

October is domestic violence awareness month and when most people think of domestic violence, they imagine mostly female victims. However, abuse of men happens as well – in both heterosexual and homosexual relationships. But some are taking it upon themselves to change all that.

Keep Reading Show less

At this point most reasonable people agree that climate change is a serious problem. And while a lot of good people are working on solutions, and we're all chipping in by using fewer plastic bags, it's also helpful to understand where the leading causes of the issue stem from. The list of 20 leading emitters of carbon dioxide by The Guardian newspaper does just that.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet
via International Labour Organization / Flickr and Michael Moore / Facebook

Before the release of "The Joker" there was a glut of stories in the media about the film's potential to incite violence.

The FBI issued a warning, saying the film may inspire violence from a group known as the Clowncels, a subgroup of the involuntarily celibate or Incel community.

Incels an online subculture who believe they are unable to attract a sexual partner. The American nonprofit Southern Poverty Law Center describes them as "part of the online male supremacist ecosystem" that is included in its list of hate groups.

Keep Reading Show less