Saturday, February 18, 2017

Three killer graphics from Raj Chetty

Click your way over to his web site, The Equality of Opportunity Project, and spend some time exploring. Here are three of my favorites... you'll find your own.

1. You grew up poor: Your parents earned an income at the 10th percentile of the national income distribution. Across the tracks, your unlikely friend grew up rich, at the 90th percentile. You're both now in your mid-20s... How's it going? If you are typical, given your humble origins, you've had to work hard, but you've made out OK: your income is nearly at the 40th percentile– on the low side of middle class, but you've escaped poverty. Your friend, meanwhile, had many advantages in life, and not surprisingly she's doing better than you are: slightly above the 60th percentile. But materially, at least, the income divide of your childhood has narrowed substantially.

We know from comparative studies that intergenerational mobility in the United States is actually lower than most other developed economies. The playing field is not level: the circumstances of one's birth matter a lot here. But on average, maybe not as much as I had thought.

2. But wait a sec. "On average," I said. Average obscures a lot of variation. And in the United States, Chetty et al have shown, a lot of variation is associated with place. In this map, the colors show where you ended up in the income distribution, having been raised in a family at the 25th percentile. Darker means you were less likely to escape your humble origins. In the prairie states, you probably made it to middle class... If you came from the "black belt," or "the rez," you probably didn't do much better than your folks. Opportunity, like the map, is color-coded in America. The underlying data here, by the way, are adjusted for local cost of living. That adjustment only really matters in high-cost places like the Bay Area, which offers less upward mobility than we'd like to think.

3. So if you're living in one of those dark red zones, maybe you should grab the kids and move to a lighter place on the map. Will it help them grow up more prosperous? Indeed, and they gain for every additional year they're there. Meanwhile, our democracy might work harder figuring out how to equalize the numbers.

No comments:

Post a Comment