Is it easier to climb the economic ladder in red America or blue America?
In the wake of a new study on upward mobility released last week, economists and writers have been debating that question. To some — and to some readers of my article on the study — the data seemed to suggest that climbing from poverty to the middle class and beyond was harder in conservative states than in liberal ones. Looking at the map that ran in last Monday's Times, the immediate impression is that some of the lowest rates of mobility occur in the solidly Republican Deep South.
Yet that immediate conclusion turns out to be misleading. The odds of escaping poverty are nearly identical in liberal regions and conservative regions, at least according to this study, which some economists regard as the most comprehensive mobility analysis to date.