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Why Is U.S. Economic Mobility Worse in the South?

Aug. 8 (Bloomberg) -- Americans pride themselves on their intergenerational mobility. Our nation’s exceptionalism is organized around the American dream: No matter where you come from and no matter who your parents are, you can rise to the top of the economic ladder, so long as you are willing to commit yourself and work hard.

In recent years, however, a great deal of comparative research has been done on intergenerational mobility, and it raises legitimate questions about the claim that the U.S. stands out as a land of opportunity. In 2006, a widely reported study found that in terms of intergenerational mobility, the U.S. lagged behind Nordic nations (including Denmark, Finland, Sweden and Norway) as well as the U.K. For example, Danish men born to households in that nation’s bottom quintile are far more likely than their U.S. counterparts to make it to the higher quintiles.