Why Some States Do Better Than Others

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.

Alex Tabarrok posts a chart today showing that heavily urbanized states tend to be richer than less urbanized states. The correlation is impressive, but Ryan Avent asks us to focus on just the right hand part of the chart, which shows only the most urbanized states:

Ryan suggests that we look at the states above the line (wealthier than expected) and those below the line (poorer than expected):

In the rich, productive bunch, we have California, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Washington, and, just hanging below the line, Massachusetts. Sitting well below the line we have places like Arizona, Florida, Nevada, and Texas. It’s striking how dispersed wealth is at the high urbanisation end relative to the low urbanisation end; the gap between similarly urbanised states like Connecticut and Florida is enormous.

What accounts for this? Ryan has a couple of ideas, but as it turns out, the Credit Suisse report that this chart is taken from addresses this very question in the context of different countries. Why do some highly urbanized countries lie so far below the trend line?

A clue lies with the most disproportionate distribution of income for any particular geographical groups of countries in our sample….Government policy to improve income distribution and social mobility appears to be as essentential an ingredient to ensure successful patterns of urbanization, and its associated improvements in living standards, as sufficient infrastructure investment and city planning.

Maybe something similar is true of U.S. states. States that promote social mobility, discourage excessive income inequality, and are willing to invest in broad-based infrastructure, do well. Those that don’t, don’t.

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest