Open Phones: Your Mobility Stories

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Child poverty by state, 2010 (U.S. Census Bureau)

A recent study finds that location matters when it comes to income mobility. The odds of moving up to a higher income level are low in cities like Atlanta and Charlotte and much higher in New York and Boston. If you grew up poor and made it to the middle class, tell us your story. Comment here or call us at 212-433-9692.

Comments [17]

Karen Vaughan

I have patients who use access a ride and they complain that since access a ride company subcontractors are paid by the mile that they create routes that are as long and inefficient as possible. She lives around the corner from a coworker who uses it and they are never scheduled together. Instead she is taken all over creation. Instead of cutting down disabled riders- some patients have had been without transportation for 6 months- get rid of the corruption.

Jul. 25 2013 10:22 AM
JR from UWS

Our society is so focused on upward mobility and the "nouveaux riches," it is part of our identity as Americans and our ideas about the American Dream.

But what about downward mobility? Obviously a LOT of it is going on (or we'd all be riding around in Ferraris, as the one caller said.) The French acknowledge the nouveaux riches' downwardly-mobile counterpart: the déclassé. We should too.

I hope that the BLS specifically addresses this some time.

Jul. 24 2013 01:34 PM
alex from Brooklyn Heights

Your program about upward mobility and NYC in particular. I have asked an endless number of people if they read their Con Edison bill. No-one appears to. They just pay it no matter what. Well, could you please do a survey of people's Con Ed bills? It used to be that Con Edison was granted a higher rate for electricity during summer months. Then came in the alternative providers of electricity so this higher rate seemed to be history. However, what no-one I know seems to have realized is that no matter who you get your electricity through only Con Edison is able to deliver it. So, for some years now (your researchers would be more accurate than I) Con Edison has been granted numerous increases to their delivery charges, and not to their rates. This has resulted in the delivery charges being, on average, 1.5 times the cost of the actual electricity provided. So, no matter how one saves on electricity use, your bill is always high. The applications by Con Edison for increases are published in the papers but they are so complicated and unreadable to the normal person that these increases in delivery charges have continued to go through. I live alone and my electricity bill is never less than $76 a month, and almost always more.
Could you please bring up this issue for discussion on your program please. I'd bet few listeners are aware of this.
Thank you

Jul. 24 2013 11:06 AM
Clarence from Queens

How did I rise? I am convinced it came down to three choices...

For me being very poor in the suburbs as a kid - the way I made it?

1 - I had a paper route in the AM so I had some spending money as a teen and I saved most of it.

2 - I decided not to get a car even though all my friends were and I watched as they struggled to work for every cent they could just to pay for the costs of owning it.

3 - I chose to go to college at a State school for cheaper when many friends opted for the elites.

Instead of coming out of school in massive debt (I worked three jobs at times while in school) I was able to not face 10 plus years of student loans and other expense. My first job out of school was only for 18K, but I could live on it.

Jul. 24 2013 10:09 AM
RCT from Westchester

I was born in 1950, in Brooklyn, in what was then called Red Hook but is now (the very expensive) Carroll Gardens. Neither of my parents graduated from high school; my father dropped out of school in the 8th grade, after his father died, to help support his mother and sisters; my mother left high school for office work for similar reasons.

We lived in a 3 1/2 room, rent-controlled "railroad" apartment in a brownstone. My father ran a small business-custom jewelry-from home. When I was 12, my mother took a part-time job as an office worker in a department store. I have been working since age 15.

My sister and I graduated from public high schools and CUNY. I earned a Ph.D (English; very useful (not))and law degree from Columbia, while my sister attended the Bank Street School and Columbia Teachers' College. I am a lawyer; she teaches math. I live in Westchester; she lives in NJ.

My sister and I would not have climbed the economic ladder had it not been for our parents' hard work, and their insistence that we obtain a good education. Also key, however, were that (1)CUNY was, at the time that we attended, free to all;(2) our NYS Regents Scholarships, which we won via an exam and paid for books and incidentals; and (3) the social benefits of the New Deal enabled my parents to survive and education their children, regardless of their own modest circumstances (a/k/a, "we were poor"). A minimum wage; health benefits via my mom's job; social security and, later, Medicare; my mom's pension -- all gave our parents security and allowed my sister and me opportunities. We attended graduate school on scholarships, low-cost student loan programs, and Pell grants.

It takes a village; the Republicans run a gulag. I don't know whether, regardless of my parents' efforts and our hard work and ambition, my sister and could have succeeded today.

Jul. 23 2013 01:33 PM
Jill D from NYC

I grew up in a farming community in central Ohio that lacked cultural, racial and economic diversity. I attribute my mobility to the intense work ethic (and related values) of my parents, and my attendance at a small, liberal arts college that opened my eyes to a much bigger world and seemingly endless opportunities. I'm concerned with what appears to be a growing apathy toward higher education in that part of the country, especially in contrast to the Northeast where so many children are groomed for college from pre-school age.

Jul. 23 2013 12:07 PM
Corinna Brown from Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn

I grew up on welfare, in a drug addicted/alcoholic family in East Meadow, LI. My sister and I were put into foster care 8 years after my mother had her first psychotic break and my father abandoned us. I am so grateful for the 3 things that have lead to my success and upward mobility: The foster care system (even though I hated it at the time) that took me out of that dysfunctional & abusive family; All the years of psychotherapy (Reichian based dance/movement therapy) I had to help me heal the wounds I had from the first 15 years of my life and helped me believe I deserved good things; The educational support I received from the public schools on LI, the scholarship I received at the State University System (SUNYA- EOP program), and the affordable Masters Degree I earned at Hunter College. Unfortunately my sister, who has a learning disability and emotional problems has not broken the cycle.

Jul. 23 2013 11:55 AM
Catherine from Manhattan

Hi Brian - I'm the Catherine who called up, who grew up in public housing in Darien. (I'm the minister you met at Fundraising Day, by the way - didn't mention it on the phone because it wasn't relevant to your segment!) Thanks for giving me the chance to tell my story. I think it's so important and something I want people to know -- I especially hope some people from Darien were listening and will support public housing in their town!

Jul. 23 2013 11:51 AM
Mike from Brooklyn

The fact that, in the study Brian cites, economic integration is important for class mobility really rang true for me. I grew up middle class, but I grew up in an economically-integrated neighborhood. The Upper Upper West Side / Manhattan Valley / Morningside Heights - whatever you wanted to call it at the time - had a substantial middle class like my family. But there were plenty of working class people on my block, even in my building, (Madonna actually lived in my building when she was still waiting tables or whatever.) There were SRO buildings on my block, there were projects 2-3 blocks away. There were homeless people on Broadway. And as a result, I grew up seeing poverty and seeing people struggle, which is why I'm a social worker today.

On the other side of things, though, I can imagine that growing up in the projects in a neighborhood where there are plenty of people in ties with briefcases going to their professional job allows one to envision more possible futures than growing up in ghettos. From all I've read on poverty, I've gotten the impression that, if you live in a neighborhood where, the only people with any money that you see are in the drug trade, you don't see too many options. You don't see many possible futures.

And I think that, under Bloomberg and Giuliani, if anything, we've headed toward the kind of economic segregation that you see in cities like Atlanta. Rent deregulation has allowed gentrifying neighborhoods to rapidly rid themselves of working families. Even middle income housing has fallen under attack, with Stuyvesant Town and Cooper Village being converted to market-rate "luxury housing." And developers have their eyes on all of those projects on the Lower East Side. The message is clear - Manhattan is for the rich. The "nice" neighborhoods in Brooklyn are for the rich. If you are working class, you can live in the Bronx, Brownsville, Far Rockaway, Hempstead - far away where we don't have to see you and you have to commute hours each day to barely make ends meet and go home to decrepit neighborhoods with poor municipal services, poor policing and a lack of good public space.

Jul. 23 2013 11:46 AM
Paul from grew up in inner east side of Buffalo

INteresting comments on study as to what creates upward mobility.

There is only one (largely overlooked) indicator or forecaster of success in K-12 education by students - those that sit down to a dinner/supper most nights (4/5 nights) succeed. It has been the one consistent forecasting element for many years.

The study BL mentioned that integrated neighborhoods with two parent families were much more successful environments for creating upward mobility.
My experience confirms this and there is a successful high school re structuring model that has as well.
1) two parent families provided a tribal network of step-in role models and parent figures when your mother or father was AWOL in a role. It was informal and understood that some youth and adults just "connected" as friends. In my case I got a paper route in 7th grade ..that led to meeting a youngish businessman who mentored me and traded paying for my tuition at a college prep high school for me being his Boy Friday-lawn in summer, driveway clearing in winter (in Buffalo) painting the house et.(This was not only an academic opportunity -I was a shrimp at 14 yrs-4'8" - and would have been bathroom roadkill at the local public high school.)

That coupled with the long gone NY Regents College Scholarship Award -in which your score on the old SAT type Regents exam was correlated with your parents income to translate ointo a state paid scholarship good at any college/university in NY, the award given by merit on your exam score and the amount by your need (your parents income). That high school mentorship and the NYRegents scholarship was the neighborhood local BUS AND STATEWIDE TRANSIT TICKET -if you will accept the metaphor- to the middle class.

Jul. 23 2013 11:38 AM
Mike from Brooklyn

A Slight bit off topic, but there is NO MIDDLE CLASS in the USA. A Middle class is based on a three level class system; the top being A Land Owning Aristocracy. In the US everyone can buy land so there is really only 2 classes in the US The Owner Class, who own their own businesses and the working class who get payed by paycheck and work for someone else.. This includes both white and blue-color workers. If you work for someone else you are WORKING CLASS If you own a Business You are Owner Class. In the US both Owner and Working Class people can be MIDDLE INCOME.

Jul. 23 2013 11:36 AM
Alicia from New York

I grew up in NYCHA Ravenswood projects in the 1970's. Times were very difficult and you had to learn to work hard and be resilient.

Aside from the work ethic and integrity instilled by my immigrant parents, the two most important drivers of my social mobility were continuous progressive employment and birth control.

Many of my cohorts chose to have several children and it has hindered their ability to seek better jobs and amass capital.

Jul. 23 2013 11:29 AM
Lucky Gal from NYC

Grandparents came dirt poor from Eastern Europe early 1900s, but dedicated to education for their children. My parents grew up poor and borrowed money from family for pharmacy school (dad) and nursing school (mom) -- those degrees didn't require college in the 1930s. Growing up we felt middle class but not because we had a lot of money, but because my parents were very thrifty. Dad died very young, so we were raised by a single mom. Us kids were always expected to go to college, and we did. Luckily the cost of college and graduate school were MUCH lower than now, so we were able to get loans for our education. Both kids became solidly middle class because we were educated.

Funny memory, I recall asking my mother in about 1975 how much a good, solid salary would be to make someone financially comfortable. She said, oh somewhere around $30,000!! So how much could she have been making, while raising 2 kids, paying a mortgage and upkeep on a car?

Jul. 23 2013 11:26 AM
Ruth C Lewin from Union City, NJ

One of 8 children of very poor parents, we had "middle-class" values: family, hard work, education, proper speech & deportment. My mother emphasized that I needed to have the ability to support myself because the future is unknown. I was a hard working student with a phenomenal memory. An equal opportunity scholarship to New York University and then a fellowship to Columbia University for a master's degree equalized my career options. My husband and I met as undergrads and had a successful small business for 25 years.

Jul. 23 2013 11:16 AM
John A

Moved to Silicon Valley at age 26. This it can be argued helped get me into a good research lab job 5 years later, with only a BS degree.

Jul. 23 2013 11:16 AM
Canarsie from NYC

Howard Schultz CEO of Starbucks grew up in Canarsie, Brooklyn!!!!!

Jul. 23 2013 11:13 AM
Vinny from White Plains, N.Y.

Lower middle class, single parent home, dying industrial town in the 70's.

Biggest Factor: Community College (affordable) and the State University System of New York.

Hope the politicos are reading this.

Jul. 23 2013 11:12 AM

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