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Location matters in climbing the income ladder

Jonathan Goforth / flickr commons

The plains states rank well generally for income mobility according to a new study considered to be the most comprehensive yet on the subject.  Based on millions of anonymous income records, the study by leading economists found four primary factors correlated with higher income mobility in an area: a larger and more dispersed local middle class, more two-parent households, better elementary schools and high schools, and more civic engagement, including membership in religious and community groups.

Conversely, the research found that larger tax credits for the poor and higher taxes on the affluent seemed to improve income mobility only slightly and only modest or no correlation exits between mobility and the number of local colleges and their tuition rates or between mobility and the amount of extreme wealth in an area.

Credit New York Times
NYT map showing the chance a child raised in the bottom fifth of the income ladder rising to the top fifth. A visual scan of the greenish shaded counties shows the plains states do relatively well. See the link to the NYT in the story to access the interactive map.

The New York Times has a complete story on the study as well as an interactive map.  The map’s shading shows the estimated percentage chance of a child raised in the bottom fifth of the income ladder rising to the top fifth.  A quick scan on the map shows the plains states do well overall with some local areas leading the nation.  Across the High Plains region, local chances range from a high of 23.9% in the Dighton –Ness City KS area to a low of 8.2% in the Amarillo TX area. 

Here’s a rank ordering of all the locales, as defined by the study, that are in HPPR’s coverage area:

  • 23.9%         Dighton-Ness City area (KS counties: Lane, Ness)
  • 19.9%         Atwood-Oberlin area (KS counties: Rawlins, Decatur)
  • 19.3%         Colby area (KS counties: Thomas, Sheridan, Logan, Gove)
  • 18.9%         Perryton area (TX counties: Ochiltree, Hansford, Lipscomb)
  • 18.7%         Phillipsburg-Smith Center area (KS counties: Phillips, Smith)
  • 18.5%         Norton (KS county: Norton)
  • 17.4%         Osborne area (KS counties: Osborne, Mitchell)
  • 17.1%         Pampa area (TX counties: Gray, Carson, Hemphill, Hutchinson, Roberts)
  • 17.0 %        Goodland area (KS counties: Sherman, Wallace)
  • 16.9%         Hays area (KS counties: Ellis, Russell, Trego)
  • 16.9%         Wellington area (TX counties: Wheeler, Collingsworth)
  • 16.2%         Guymon area (counties: Texas OK,  Cimarron OK, Morton KS, Sherman TX)
  • 16.0%         Hill City area (KS counties: Graham, Rooks)
  • 15.5%         St. Francis area (counties: Cheyenne KS, Dundy NE)
  • 14.6%         Scott City area (KS counties: Scott, Greeley, Wichita)
  • 13.5%         Liberal area (counties: Seward KS, Meade KS, Beaver OK)
  • 13.5%         Ulysses area (KS counties: Grant, Stanton, Stevens)
  • 12.5%         Dumas area (TX counties: Moore, Dallam, Hartley)
  • 11.1%         Dodge City area (KS counties: Ford, Clark, Gray, Hodgeman, )
  • 9.1%           Garden City area (KS counties: Finney, Hamilton, Kearney, Haskell)
  • 8.2%           Amarillo area (TX counties: Potter, Randall, Armstrong, Deaf Smith, Oldham)

Nationwide, the percentages range from a high of 34.8% for Gettysburg SD to a low of 2.2% for Nome AK.