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Where's the Upward Mobility?

The land of no raises? Texas one of the worst states in the country for earnings growth

Economic mobility. It's the technical term for the American dream, to make more than your parents did. But in the first-ever state-by-state measure of economic mobility, conducted by the non-partisan Pew Economic Mobility Project, data shows that Texas rates one of the worst states to increase your slice of the pie.

To measure mobility, Pew checked on the incomes of nearly 65,000 individuals when they were aged 35-39 and 45-49 over an extended period between 1978 to 2007, before the current recession began, giving a long-term view of wage growth.

 Texas was listed as one of the worst eight states in absolute economic mobility, or the average percent of earnings growth over a 10-year period. 

Texas was listed as one of the worst eight states in absolute economic mobility, or the average percent of earnings growth over a 10-year period. Strangely, Texas' 15 percent absolute growth is still better than West Virginia's 13 percent, New Mexico's 14 percent and tied with Hawaii's 15 percent, despite the latter states being ranked as "not statistically different from the national average." South Carolina and Alabama had the lowest economic mobility scores in the country, at 12 percent, while Northeast states including Connecticut, Rhode Island and New Jersey in addition to Utah ranked among the top for scores between 22 and 24 percent.

When it comes to relative mobility — those whose earnings growth doesn't just increase over time, but increases by at least 10 percentile relative to other's earnings — Texas also fared poorly, with 31 percent registering relative upward mobility. The relatively low numbers were solid across the South, with Mississippi, South Caroline and North Carolina tied for the lowest score at 26 percent. Once again the Yankees, plus California, Oregon, Utah, Colorado and Michigan came out on top, led by Connecticut's 49 percent.

One silver lining for Texans is that even if relative upward mobility isn't that great, the state fares decently when it comes to downward mobility. Texas' rate of 30 percent is statistically within the national average, solidly below the 40 percent rate that covered Alaska, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, which were measured together, and above New Jersey's score of 20 percent, the best in the nation.

This data, collected over decades, shows long term trends, but Houstonians can take comfort in a more recent ranking. Business Insider ranked Houston the best city in the country for a raise, with wages growing a solid 2.2 percent between 2010-2011.

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