Want to Live the American Dream? Move to Scranton.
The Office was set in Scranton because Scranton seemed like a really good embodiment of the sort of drab, milquetoast existence the characters on that show lived. And so Scranton became the butt of a national joke for about a decade. Now, it turns out Scranton’s having the last laugh.
According to a major new study profiled today in the New York Times–it’s being called the most important study of U.S. income mobility ever conducted–low-income people born in Scranton, PA are more upwardly mobile than most others in the United States: “A poor person from Scranton is almost twice as likely to rise into a higher income bracket than a poor person from Toledo, Ohio, or South Bend, Ind.”
So, why Scranton?
The authors of the new study found four factors that areas with more upward mobility tend to have in common: a large and geographically dispersed middle class; better than average schools; a high share of two-parent households; and populations engaged with religious and community organizations.
Scranton has all of that. In addition, researchers found that low-income and middle-income families often lived in the same neighborhoods; the study found that income diversity was correlated with upward mobility. Overall, families in the East Coast, Midwest, and Northwest have fared best, while the Deep South features the most entrenched income inequality. Philly, unsurprisingly, ain’t doing so hot. For instance: If you are born in Scranton to a family that earns $21,000 a year, you have a 25% chance of rising to one of the top two fifths of income distribution. If you’re born in Philly? 20% That difference isn’t so huge, but then again, Scranton’s not the fifth largest city in the country and the economic engine of an entire region. [NY Times]