Perspective

Zoom in: See where the American Dream can be achieved

Does the neighborhood you grow up in determine how far you move up the economic ladder? A new online data tool from Harvard and Brown Universities, with the help of the U.S. Census Bureau, demonstrate a strong correlation between where people are raised and their chances of achieving the American dream.

Though NPR defines the American Dream as “earning more than their parents did,” this is still a very interesting tool.

By John Ydstie, NPR

Harvard University economist Raj Chetty has been working with a team of researchers on this tool – the first of its kind, because it marries U.S. Census Bureau data with data from the Internal Revenue Service. And the findings are changing how researchers think about economic mobility.

People born in the 1940s or ’50s were virtually guaranteed to achieve the American dream of earning more than their parents did, Chetty says. But that’s not the case anymore.

“You see that for kids turning 30 today, who were born in the mid-1980s, only 50 percent of them go on to earn more than their parents did,” Chetty says. “It’s a coin flip as to whether you are now going to achieve the American dream.”

Chetty and his colleagues worked with the Census Bureau’s Sonya Porter and Maggie Jones to create The Opportunity Atlas, which became available to the public on Monday.

At first glance, it looks a lot like a Google map, where users can see the whole country, or zoom in to local neighborhoods. The difference is in the amount of data that pops up when a neighborhood is highlighted.

Researchers hope this data will help communities understand and tackle the barriers that prevent people from climbing the economic ladder. They want policymakers to use this data to offer new solutions locally.

Read the full story at NPR.

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