The changing geography of social mobility in the United States

Dylan Shane Connor, Michael Storper

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


New evidence shows that intergenerational social mobility—the rate at which children born into poverty climb the income ladder—varies considerably across the United States. Is this current geography of opportunity something new or does it reflect a continuation of long-term trends? We answer this question by constructing data on the levels and determinants of social mobility across American regions over the 20th century. We find that the changing geography of opportunity-generating economic activity restructures the landscape of intergenerational mobility, but factors associated with specific regional structures of interpersonal and racial inequality that have “deep roots” generate persistence. This is evident in the sharp decline in social mobility in the Midwest as economic activity has shifted away from it and the consistently low levels of opportunity in the South even as economic activity has shifted toward it. We conclude that the long-term geography of social mobility can be understood through the deep roots and changing economic fortunes of places.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)30309-30317
Number of pages9
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number48
StatePublished - Dec 1 2020


  • Intergenerational mobility | geography | inequality | race | economic history

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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