Upward Mobility of Low-Income Youth in Metropolitan, Micropolitan, and Rural America

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© 2017, © 2017 by The American Academy of Political and Social Science. We analyze county-level social, demographic, and economic data in U.S. counties to explore how economic mobility in the United States varies across the geography of the rural-urban interface. We reveal that micropolitan areas—small and medium urban centers—appear to play a unique role in the geography of intergenerational economic mobility. Micropolitan areas help to define the blurred boundaries of the new rural-urban interface, and play a unique and potentially powerful role in supporting the upward mobility of low-income youth. In some geographic areas, micropolitan counties serve as cores of nonmetropolitan America, supporting upward mobility in ways that take advantage of their density and scale. In other domains, they are relatively low-density transition zones between remote noncore rural counties and metropolitan America, supporting upward mobility of low-income youth in ways that exploit the opportunities and reveal weaknesses associated with nonmetropolitan small size, lack of density, and limited technological capacity.

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Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science

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