By John Dodge

CHICAGO (CBS) — For parents who want their children to live the American Dream, Chicago is a city that doesn’t work, a group of university researchers found.

Even worse, it is especially difficult for children from poor Chicago families to break the cycle of poverty, compared with other regions in the country.

“The United States is often hailed as the land of opportunity, a society in which a child’s chances of success depend little on her family background. Is this reputation warranted?” according to a report by researchers from Harvard and UC Cal-Berkeley, Where is the Land of Opportunity? The Geography of Intergenerational Mobility in the United States.

“The U.S. is better described as a collection of societies, some of which are ‘lands of opportunity’ with high rates of mobility across generations, and others in which few children escape poverty.”

The researchers examined administrative records on the incomes of more than 40 million children and their parents.

Among the top 50 major cities in the United States, Chicago ranked a dismal No. 32.

Similar large cities like San Francisco, New York, Boston and Los Angeles all rank in the top 11.

The best place to live the American Dream is Salt Lake City.

The worst: Charlotte, N.C., the study found.


Children in rural areas in Illinois have a much better shot at doing better than their parents, compared with kids in Chicago.

By age 30, children who grew up in Chicago “have significantly lower incomes” than those who grew up in small town Illinois, the study found.

In comparing San Francisco and Chicago, mobility outcomes depended on family income, the study found.

In Chicago, children from high-income families had better outcomes than those in San Francisco.

The reverse is true for poorer families, meaning it is easier for children from the Bay Area to break out of poverty, compared with Chicago.

Families that continually live in poverty are subject to higher crime (many become convicted criminals themselves), poorer health, education and substandard housing.

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