The Best (and Worst) States in America for Economic Growth

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If you want to increase your chances of moving up the economic ladder during your prime working years–and limit the risk of falling further into the basement of the 99%–stay away from the southern U.S.

That’s the message in a new study from Pew’s Economic Mobility Project.

Eight states, primarily in the Mideast and New England regions, offer higher upward and lower downward mobility than the nation as a whole, while states in the South have consistently lower upward and higher downward mobility.

“When it comes to achieving the American Dream, it matters where you live,” Erin Currier, project manager of Pew’s Economic Mobility Project, said in a release. “Understanding that mobility rates differ by state is the first step toward helping policy makers pinpoint what enhances their residents’ mobility.”

The study evaluated economic mobility in three ways. Absolute mobility measures residents’ average earnings growth over time, and upward and downward relative mobility measures people’s rank on the ladder relative to their peers. States that rank above the national average on at least two measures were considered “better” and those that are below on at least two were considered “worse” for the study.

The states that ranked better in terms of economic mobility using all three measures are Maryland, New Jersey and New York.

Connecticut, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Utah ranked better on two of the three measures.

Louisiana, Oklahoma and South Carolina ranked worse on all three measures, while Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina and Texas ranked worse on two of the three measures.

The study concentrated on mobility prospects during an individual’s prime working years—the 10-year span between ages 35-39 and 45-49. The research focused on individuals born between 1943 and 1958, with the most recent data coming from 2007 Social Security Administration records.

Pew noted in its study that results did not change based on whether Americans were grouped by their birth states or the states they were living in at the time of the survey: In effect, geographic mobility does not drive overall state differences in economic mobility. However, geography does matter on an individual level: Those who moved out of their birth states had better mobility outcomes on average than those who did not.

To make yourself more economically mobile, visit the Pew study website www.economicmobility.org.

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