Class Mobility Driven by Geography

When it comes to class mobility, geography is destiny, or at least a large part of it, according to a new study of earnings records. It’s much easier to climb the income ladder in certain cities—New York, Boston, Seattle—than in others, such as Atlanta, Charlotte, and Columbus. It’s not just that high-mobility cities have higher average incomes: Seattle and Atlanta’s average income is about the same, but fairly poor children who grow up in Seattle do as well as middle-class children in Atlanta, where concentrated poverty, bad traffic, and weak public transit make it difficult for low-income people to get to jobs.