New Research Shows Mecklenburg County Among Worst For Economic Mobility

May 6, 2015

This figure plots the percentage gain from moving to a better area by the age at which the child moves.
Credit www.equality-of-opportunity.org

If you’re poor and grow up in Mecklenburg County, you have among the worst chances in the country of climbing the income ladder as you get older. That’s according to a study by a group of researchers at Harvard, who looked at the earnings records of millions of families. The study found poor children in Stanly County, just two counties over, have a much better chance at earning more money as adults. 

"Kids who grow up in Mecklenburg County who are poor - defined as parents who earned about $30,000 per year - their incomes will be about $3,600 lower, or 14 percent lower, than the national average," says Jamie Fogel, a researcher who worked on the study.

He says that counties that have higher rates of intergenerational mobility tend to have five characteristics:

1. Less segregation by race and income

2. Lower levels of income inequality

3. Better schools

4. Lower rates of violent crime

5. Larger shares of two-parent households  

Mecklenburg County fares pretty poorly on those measures.

"In terms of income inequality, it's among the 5 percent of worst counties," Fogel told WFAE's Marshall Terry. "It's in the lowest 10 percent of counties in terms of income share held by the top 1 percent. It has a relatively low percentage of married households and is relatively high in violent crime."

There are other large counties that fared really well, like DuPage County in the Chicago area and Snohomish County in the Seattle area. He says economic mobility is also a mixed bag among rural counties. In the Charlotte area, Stanly County gives kids a better chance of success, while Iredell County lowers those chances.

To hear more of our conversation, click the play button at the top of this page.