A recent study by Harvard University and University of California Berkeley economic researchers proves that where you are born and raised still matters if your idea of the “American Dream” is to rise out of poverty.
Turns out, despite Pine City’s poverty rates that are higher than the Minnesota average, the small-town is a good place to come from to be able to rise out of poverty.
Pine City area children raised in households where parents have less than $25,000 in annual income, or the bottom 20 percent of U.S. household income, have an 11.9-percent chance of moving above $107,000 in annual income as they mature, joining the ranks of the nation’s top 20 percent, according to the data base assembled by Harvard’s Raj Chetty and Nathaniel Hendren and Berkeley’s Patrick Kline and Emmanuel Saez, and their colleagues.
“Those figures not only fare well for a small town, but they are better than any major city in the United States,” said Nathan Johnson, City Planner for the City of Pine City. “Salt Lake City, Utah, offers the highest upward mobility, at 11.5-percent.”
Among the nation’s 30 most populous areas, the Twin Cities metro came in at a nine-percent chance of moving above $107,000. But the industrial centers of Marshall, Thief River Falls, Roseau, Hutchinson, Fairmont, Willmar, Fergus Falls, Little Falls and St. Cloud all topped 15-percent odds. Redwood Falls has the highest upward mobility odds in Minnesota, at 17.3-percent.
Other Minnesota cities, besides Pine City, that fare well are Rochester, Mankato, International Falls, Brainerd, Austin, Bemidji and Duluth.
In national comparisons, Atlanta has the most locked-in poverty. Just four percent of children move from the bottom to the top 20 percent cohorts for incomes, with Detroit, Cleveland and Cincinnati only slightly better with 5 percent odds for such upwards mobility.
“The Harvard-Berkeley economists showed what our mobility rate was,” said Johnson, adding, “I believe we fare well because our community leaders, parents and public policy makers jumped in, and explored the conditions that trap people in poverty through Horizons.”
From 2008 to 2010, Pine City participated in the Northwest Area Foundation’s Horizons Program to reduce poverty and build social capital in the community.
Johnson said, “Horizons helped people identify logical goals to help our community achieve some measurement of “the American Dream”, not only by household income but by other achievements.”
“It also helps that we have access to high-quality education in Pine City, with stellar, award-winning schools and Pine Technical College with low tuition rates right here in our backyard,” explained Johnson.
“In addition, people here roll up their sleeves and are involved with volunteer work, church activities and social causes. We help one another succeed,” he said.
“We must build on what has been documented by these economists,” said Johnson. “Our mobility numbers are only good in comparative rankings, not in real, human terms. We still have a ways to go.”
Other findings of the study, which can be viewed at http://www.equality-of-opportunity.org, were the absolute upward mobility for Pine City: 46.6-percent; and the relative upward mobility was 29.1-percent.
The “Pine City” identified in the study is one of 741 “commuting zones” around the U.S. It had a population of 41, 526.