Urban Reform Institute Releases Report on Upward Mobility


In a new report, Upward Mobility, Charles Blain, Wendell Cox and Joel Kotkin examine examine housing costs, patterns of domestic migration and how they affect upward mobility for middle and working-class citizens, especially historically disadvantage minorities. An excerpt from the report follows below:

“If a man doesn't have a job or an income, he has neither life nor liberty nor the possibility for the pursuit of happiness. He merely exists.”
Martin Luther King, Jr. — 1968

In today’s media, on our college campuses, and on the streets of our great cities, no cry is more pervasive than the demand for “social justice” for America’s minorities. While much attention is given to athletes, academic pundits, political activists, and media figures who signal their fealty to the cause of racial equality, there has been precious little attention paid to conditions experienced by minorities on the ground.

If rhetoric could magically change conditions, minorities in the most ‘woke’ metropolitan areas would be doing great. California Governor Gavin Newsom, for example, brags that his state is “the envy of the world,” and is not going to abandon its poor people: “We’re not that state.” He said, “Unlike the Washington plutocracy, California isn’t satisfied serving a powerful few on one side of the velvet rope. The California Dream is for all.”

Really? California, well known for its wealth, had the sixth highest median household income in the nation in 2019, yet has had the highest housing-cost-adjusted poverty rate among the states since data was first published in 2011.2 A net 2.4 million residents left California between 2000 and 2019, 7% of its 2000 population.

Similarly, during the same period New York lost 16% of its population to other states. Political leaders like New York’s Mayor Bill DeBlasio, who has set up a commission designed to uproot the city’s ’institutional’ racism, epitomizes the current fashion. If powerful rhetoric were an elixir, minorities in metropolitans like New York City, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Chicago would be doing better than their counterparts in less ‘woke’ areas. But they do far worse in terms of actual measurements of progress: income, housing affordability, and education. New York and California also exhibit among the highest levels of inequality in the country, with poor outcomes for Blacks and Hispanics. Perhaps most intriguing are the domestic migration patterns that show where they are choosing to live.

Read or download the full report here

Charles Blain (@cjblain10) is the president of Urban Reform and Urban Reform Institute. He is based in Houston and writes on municipal finance, urban politics, and other issues.

Wendell Cox is principal of Demographia, an international public policy firm located in the St. Louis metropolitan area. He is a founding senior fellow at the Urban Reform Institute, Houston and a member of the Advisory Board of the Center for Demographics and Policy at Chapman University in Orange, California. He has served as a visiting professor at the Conservatoire National des Arts et Metiers in Paris. His principal interests are economics, poverty alleviation, demographics, urban policy and transport. He is co-author of the annual Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey and author of Demographia World Urban Areas.

Joel Kotkin is the author of The Coming of Neo-Feudalism: A Warning to the Global Middle Class. He is the Presidential Fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University and Executive Director for Urban Reform Institute. Learn more at joelkotkin.com and follow him on Twitter @joelkotkin.