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Where Inequality Is Worst In The United States

Stashed in: Poverty, Harvard

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Perhaps no issue looms over American politics more than worsening  inequality and the stunting of the road to upward mobility. However, inequality varies widely across America.

Scholars of the geography of American inequality have different theses but on certain issues there seems to be broad agreement. An extensive examination by University of Washington geographerRichard Morrill found that the worst economic inequality is largely in the country’s biggest cities, as well as in isolated rural stretches in places like Appalachia, the Rio Grande Valley and parts of the desert Southwest.

Morrill’s findings puncture the mythology espoused by some urban boosters that packing people together makes for a more productive and “creative” economy, as well as a better environment for upward mobility. A much-discussed report on social mobility in 2013 by Harvard researchers was cited by the New York Times, amongothers, as evidence of the superiority of the densest metropolitan areas, but it actually found the highest rates of upward mobility in more sprawling, transit-oriented metropolitan areas like Salt Lake City, small cities of the Great Plains such as Bismarck, N.D.; Yankton, S.D.; Pecos, Texas; and even Bakersfield, Calif., a placeColumbia University urban planning professor David King  wryly labeled “a poster child for sprawl.”

Demographer Wendell Cox pointed out that the Harvard research found that commuting zones (similar to metropolitan areas) with less than 100,000 population average have the highest average upward income mobility.

So the worst inequality is in the cities AND in the country? That's not helpful.

Does sprawl contribute to greater equality?

Yes, it spreads out the wealth and makes more opportunities for more people.

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