How to get ahead?

Fascinating new research just published in American Psychologist shows why it’s easier to get ahead in some cities and harder in others. 

In the United States, for example, there are large differences in upward mobility between cities. 

Turns out the “walkability” of a city—meaning, how easy it is to get things done without a car—is a key factor in shaping the upward socioeconomic mobility of its residents.

The research shows that residents of more walkable cities are less reliant on car ownership or car usage for employment. In those cities, it’s easier to access work opportunities, make money, and build your economic future.

Walkable neighborhoods also increase people’s sense of belonging to a community, which has its own effect on increasing social mobility. (There are a bunch of reasons why this is the case and how cities can exploit this, but that’s for another post).

Why does all this matter?

Cities are growing. Massive urbanization is a global trend. Cities therefore need to invest significant resources in planning their future and in increasing the economic prospects of their citizens.

Even though the share of virtual work is increasing, the cities of the future need to design for better (even frictionless) human mobility as this will help unlock larger increases in socioeconomic mobility.


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