A fascinating map of American income mobility has been making the blogging rounds today. The map is based on a study that the NYT notes is being hailed as “the most detailed portrait yet of income mobility in the United States.” The study found that metro areas with greater income heterogeneity had greater social mobility. Gawker used the findings to sing the praises of public transportation, and Matt Yglesias found that the results confirmed his own belief in the merits of mixed-income neighborhoods. But there’s another factor at play here: America’s shale boom.
If you haven’t already, take the time to look at the interactive map over at the New York Times, and if you’re so inclined, read David Leonhart’s insightful analysis of the study. Looking at that NYT map, we can see that North Dakota and eastern Montana are the most upwardly mobile areas in the country. It’s no coincidence that those blue shaded areas overlap the Bakken formation, one of the largest shale oil and gas plays in the United States. And energy-rich Texas, home to the oil-rich Permian basin and the Eagle Ford shale formation, is also relatively upwardly mobile.
There are certainly more factors at work here than the energy industry alone, but the relatively remote Bakken area’s top-dog mobility status leads us to believe that shale’s transformative power is at play here. This, then, is just one more reason to be thankful for our country’s embrace of the new energy source. Had we followed “green” Europe’s example and rejected shale over dubious environmental concerns, we’d likely have a lot less income mobility out in the Midwest.
[Map of income mobility courtesy of Equality of Opportunity]