Yes, the royal baby has dropped, and guess what? It looks like Winston Churchill.

How do we know that? All babies look like Churchill:  Chubby, bald, wrinkly and grumpy.

We kid the royals, of course. We’re Americans; that’s what we do.

We fought two wars to eliminate hereditary titles and assure that smart, hard-working people wouldn’t be locked for life in a class system.

That’s why we should be concerned about the growing lack of income mobility in our own country.

Recent studies have found the U.S. is no longer the land of opportunity it once was.


Studies show that 42 percent of American men born into the bottom fifth of the income scale will remain there.

Only 25 percent of men born poor in Denmark will remain poor, and only 30 percent of British men.

Meanwhile, only 8 percent of American men born in the bottom fifth will rise to the top fifth of incomes in their lifetimes. That doesn’t compare well with 12 percent of British men and 14 percent of Danes who go from poverty to wealth.

At the other end of the scale, 62 percent of Americans born in the top fifth stayed in the top two fifths of wealth. While a similar number, 62 percent, raised in the bottom fifth of incomes stayed in the bottom two fifths.

Critics point out that first-generation immigrants are eliminated from the comparisons, and they would make our numbers look better.

Others say because we have such large income inequality in this country, it is much harder for Americans to move between the bottom and top income groups.


For instance, as the New York Times pointed out in a story in 2012, a Danish family only has to earn $43,000 more to move from the bottom 10 percent to the top ten percent. While a family in the U.S. would have to grow its income by $93,000.

One of the big differences, experts point out, is that American children are much more likely than children in other countries to grow up in a single-parent household. That tends to put those children at risk for a variety of problems that can severely limit their future earning capacity.

The U.S. also has, embarrassingly, the world’s highest incarceration rate. Living years behind bars and looking for work with a criminal record clearly cripples future earning power.

Interestingly, children born in the large middle of the income bell curve have much more mobility, meaning they are more likely to move up or down the income scale.

The “stickiness” in the U.S. comes at the very top and bottom.  Rich children become rich adults, and poor children become poor adults.

A new study last week showed that when it comes to income mobility, location really matters.


It even matters in Maine, which the study broke into four large zones. Mobility was the best in York County, which was equal to that in adjacent New Hampshire.

Things got a little worse in the counties between Cumberland in the south and Somerset and Waldo in the north and east — the area including Androscoggin, Franklin and Oxford counties.

Things got a degree worse in Piscataquis, Penobscot and Hancock counties, then got even worse in Washington County.

The researchers produced a map of the U.S. broken into about 700 zones based upon the likelihood of income mobility.

The most striking feature of the map?  Income mobility is terrible across the Cotton Belt, including Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi plus North and South Carolina, the worst in the U.S.

Things are nearly as bad in Tennessee, Kentucky and in the area radiating out from Chicago.


The places with the best income mobility include Central and West Texas, up through the Corn Belt and into western North Dakota.

So, how big are the differences? Big.

A child raised in Eufaula, Ala.,  has a 2.4 percent chance of rising from the bottom fifth of incomes to the top fifth. Atlanta, Ga., meanwhile, is the worst big city in the U.S. for upward income mobility at 4 percent.

The odds of dramatic upward mobility are about 11 percent in southern Maine.

Respectable, but not great, especially considering an upward mobility rate of between 26 percent and 33 percent in northern Wyoming and western North Dakota, the areas in the middle of the coal, gas and oil boom.

It’s still true: Go west, young poor kid; go west!


The researchers didn’t try to figure out why income mobility varied so much.

They did note a few associations: Where poor people are concentrated, they do poorly. Where they are spread out among higher-income people, they have more upward mobility.

Second, where people stay married, their children are more likely to have upward mobility. Mobility was higher in places with good public schools and higher membership rates in religious and community groups.

For the U.S. to lose upward mobility just seems, well, un-American. That the Horatio Alger story is truer in Canada, Western Europe and, gad, England indicates there’s something going wrong at the heart of the American dream.

The opinions expressed in this column reflect the views of the ownership and the editorial board.

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