The Association Between Population Density and Intergenerational Income Mobility in U.S. Counties
Holmes, Natalie Frances
Wei, Thomas E.
Do children who grow up in densely populated cities fare better economically as adults than their peers from less-densely populated suburbs and rural areas? Although suburbia was once the destination of an aspiring middle class, the first decade of the 2000s saw a tipping point: today, the majority of America's metropolitan poor live in suburbs of metropolitan areas. Likewise, urban centers have attracted wealthier and more-educated residents in recent years. Using a recently developed measure of intergenerational income mobility for U.S. counties and other subnational geographies, I examine the association between population density and intergenerational income mobility in U.S. counties, for U.S. citizen tax filers born between 1980 and 1982. For the period and cohort studied, I find a statistically significant negative relationship between log population density and absolute income mobility in U.S. counties: a one-percent increase in population density in the county where a child lived in 1996 is associated with a decline in expected adult income rank of between -0.012 and -0.024 nationally ranked income centiles.
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