Hillary Clinton Challenges Barriers to Social Mobility

26 Mar 2015
Live screen capture - Hillary Clinton speaking at Center for American Progress

Live screen capture – Hillary Clinton speaking at center for American Progress

Hillary Clinton this week led “a roundtable discussion at the Center for American Progress on expanding opportunity in urban America.” Clinton stated “We don’t have enough social mobility…Why do some communities have, frankly, more ladders for opportunity than other communities?” Emily Badger, who covers urban policy for the Washington Post, states that “this question is actually a sophisticated and hugely important one, and the fact that Clinton is thinking about it hints at what could be an important theme in the coming election.” Badger also pointed out, that shockingly, the American dream is “more real for children in Seattle than Atlanta, for poor kids growing up around Salt Lake City than Charlotte.” It’s worth finding out why.

From the Center for American Progress:

Our nation’s urban centers are the engines of the U.S. economy, and in recent years, more Americans are moving to these communities. Despite the growing popularity of living in urban areas, these communities face a number of ongoing challenges, from housing and transportation to education and workforce accessibility.

Expanding upon this statement, Ms. Badger reported:

“…[A]n accumulating body of research suggests that children growing up in some parts of the country have much better odds than children elsewhere of climbing up the economic ladder, of rising from poor roots to head middle- and upper-class households of their own.”

Citing research documented in a ground-breaking 2013 study by Raj Chetty and others at Harvard and the University of California at Berkeley, it was found that:

“[A] child’s prospects for economic mobility vary greatly — and disturbingly — by geography in America. There’s something about metropolitan Seattle, in other words, that’s more conducive to intergenerational mobility than Atlanta.”

“Metropolitan Seattle and Atlanta have comparable median incomes. But in Seattle, about one in 10 kids raised by families in the bottom fifth of household incomes will rise to the top fifth by age 30. In Atlanta, the same is true for only about one in 25 kids at the bottom.”

“…. Social mobility appears to be higher, [Chetty] found, in metropolitan areas with less economic and racial segregation, with better schools, more social capital and lower rates of single parenthood. Other researchers at CAP have found higher social mobility among metros with a large middle class.”

“The findings about segregation reinforce the idea that social mobility and geographic mobility are intimately linked. If poor communities live segregated far from jobs, as is often the case in a sprawling metro like Atlanta, employment and opportunity are harder to access for poor residents. When poor people are segregated, they’re also less likely to benefit from the connections to middle- or upper-income neighbors who might know about a better job opportunity or a good after-school program.”

I encourage you to read the rest of Badger’s article.

As noted by Richard Reeves in the Wall St. Journal, at the roundtable “the former secretary of state focused on the growing importance of cities as incubators of opportunity.” Clinton asked “…How do we promote success and upward mobility?…It’s not only about average income, as important as that is. You can look at cities that on average have similar affluence, but people are trapped and not able to move up in one city, and are moving up in another.”

Reeves concluded that:

“The key point Mrs. Clinton made was on the money. Promoting mobility and opportunity is increasingly an issue for cities and states, rather the federal government. “We need to think hard about what we’re going to do,” she said, “to make sure that our cities are not just places of economic prosperity and job creation on average, but do it in a way that lifts everybody up, to deal with the overriding issues of income inequality and lack of mobility.””

Wonkish, absolutely.  But getting into the weeds like this is the way to go beyond campaign bromides in looking for solutions to promote economic prosperity across the board. As Clinton said during her tenure as Secretary of State, “What gets measured gets done.”

Understanding what elements work to promote opportunity in one community versus another and finding ways to partner public and private concerns to create opportunity in depressed areas is a discussion worth having.

Kudos to Ms. Badger of the Washington Post, Mr. Reeves of the Wall St. Journal and other news outlets that reported on an issue which affects all of us, versus the sensationalized tripe we are drowning in on cable news today.

As Badger points out, it’s a good start that Hillary is asking the question. I look forward to this issue getting traction and hearing Clinton and her presumed opposition present solutions.

Here is a video of the Center for American Progress’ roundtable discussion:

Originally published at *EPIC TIMES*


Anita Finlay is the bestselling author of Dirty Words on Clean Skin — exposing media bias in a society not as evolved as advertised.  #1 on Amazon’s Women in Politics books for 16 weeks.

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