One of the defining features of the “American Dream” is the ability to succeed despite being born indisadvantaged circumstances. But upward mobility, in the sense of doing better than your parents,appears to be on the wane. There is however a great deal of variation across the nation in ratesof upward mobility, and some of the greatest variation lies in the nation’s rural heartland. Whilesome rural counties exhibit the nation’s lowest rates of upward mobility, others can still lay claimto being “lands of opportunity,” ensuring that young residents are prepared to take on adulthoodand work their way up the socioeconomic ladder. Why is the American Dream still alive and well insome areas, but not others? What factors are most associated with upward mobility in these ruralcommunities?To answer these questions, in this paper we merge county-level socioeconomic data with mobility datasets from the Equality of Opportunity Project. (Author abstract modified)
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