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Getting ahead is harder in the suburbs

"By discouraging sprawl, we can not only improve air quality and shorten commutes, but we can also promote upward social mobility," researcher Reid Ewing said.
By Brooks Hays   |   Jan. 27, 2016 at 4:28 PM

SALT LAKE CITY, Jan. 27 (UPI) -- To rise through the socioeconomic ranks, you're better off in the city than the suburbs. New research suggests urban sprawl, also referred to as suburban sprawl, impedes upward mobility.

A team of researchers from Utah, Texas and Louisiana built mathematical models to analyze the different ways urban sprawl can directly and indirectly affect a person's chances of getting ahead.

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Their models considered factors like access to jobs and economic diversity. Previous studies have suggested economic diversity encourages upward mobility among the socioeconomically disadvantaged.

The latest research, published in the journal Landscape and Urban Planning, found upward mobility was much higher in high-density urban areas than sprawling areas.

"As the compactness index for a metropolitan area doubles, the likelihood that a child is born into the bottom fifth of national income distribution will reach the top firth by age 30 increases by 41 percent," lead study author Reid Ewing, a professor of urban planning at Utah, explained in a press release.

Ewing acknowledges that America's low rate of upward mobility -- much lower than many European nations' -- can be explained by a number of factors. The new research suggests the United States' built environment plays a role.

"By discouraging sprawl, we can not only improve air quality and shorten commutes, but we can also promote upward social mobility," Ewing said.

More and more people are choosing to live in cities, but urban sprawl continues, even if just slightly, and many of America's biggest, most compact cities are becoming increasingly segregated by both race and income.

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