WESTERN N.D.: The land of opportunity?

Study shows high upward mobility for Killdeer area


For the DC Herald

Posted 2-28-14

A recent study found that upward mobility trends of children within southwestern North Dakota suggest some of the highest percentages within the country.

Two recent studies conducted by The Equality Opportunity Project at Harvard University found that upward income mobility varies substantially within the country.

Upward mobility is a measure of the average economic outcome of a child from a below-median income family. Statistically, upward mobility is defined as the average percentile in the national income distribution of a child who is born to parents at the 25th percentile in the national income distribution. In areas with higher absolute upward mobility, children from low-income parents earn higher incomes on average as adults.

■ A study found that 31.7 percent of children in Dunn County raised within the bottom fifth percentile of below-median income families rose to the
top fifth. That’s above average for the entire country.

Areas with greater mobility tend to have five characteristics: less segregation, less income inequality, better schools, greater social capital and more stable families.

The study also found that, contrary to popular perception, economic mobility has not changed significantly over time. However, it is consistently lower in the United States than in most developed countries.

An interactive map provided by the study found that 31.7 percent of children in Dunn County, grouped into the Dickinson area region, raised within the bottom fifth percentile of below-median income families rose to the
top fifth. New York City, for example, came in at 9.7 percent and Atlanta with 4 percent.

“It’s no surprise to see that Bowman ranks in the top percentages for upward income mobility. A strong economy and opportunities for well-paying jobs for all make this possible,” said Teran Doerr, director of the Bowman County Development Corporation in southwestern North Dakota. Bowman experienced a 29.5 percent mobility ranking.

Public perception is that intergenerational income mobility – a child’s chance of moving up in the income distribution relative to his or her parents – is declining in the United States.

Contrary to that perception, the study found that percentile rank-based measures of intergenerational mobility have remained extremely stable for the 1971-1993 birth cohorts.

For example, the probability that a child reaches the top fifth of the income distribution given parents in the bottom fifth of the income distribution is 8.4 percent for children born in 1971, compared with 9 percent for those born in 1986. Children born to the highest-income families in 1984 were 74.5 percentage points more likely to attend college than those from the lowest-income families.

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