The cities where most rich (and poor) kids end up as adults, and more!

The Los Angeles skyline in July 2020. The most-populous city in the most-populous state is the top destination for middle-class young adults who were born in the United States.
The Los Angeles skyline in July 2020. The most-populous city in the most-populous state is the top destination for middle-class young adults who were born in the United States. (Bing Guan/Bloomberg)

So far, readers have submitted more than 700 brilliant data questions for DoD consideration. We may never get to every one of them, but that won’t stop us from trying. So let’s get started with this week’s Data Dive, inspired by questions submitted by readers literally from coast to coast!

Where rich kids move as adults

Can you break down moving trends by income levels and ethnic groups?

— Jeff Brown in Seattle

Tremendous question, Mr. Brown! And by “tremendous” I mean, “We have the data to answer it!”

A previous column looked at top destinations for young adults who moved away from home by age 26. We found that the most popular metro for White people was New York City, while Asian and Hispanic people were most likely to move to Los Angeles. Young Black women and men preferred Atlanta.

But what happens if you break this data down, as Mr. Brown suggests, by parents’ income, a factor that determines so much in life, but which itself is rarely measured? Sonya Porter of the Census Bureau and Ben Sprung-Keyser and Nathaniel Hendren from Harvard University have done just that for U.S.-born young adults using anonymized government tax records.

When we split the data by income rather than race, we find New York City is the place to be for young adults from households in the highest income brackets. The top destination for young adults with the poorest parents is Atlanta. The middle class prefers Los Angeles.

These divisions are, of course, driven in part by race. New York is tops for rich kids in part because it’s the top destination for White people, who are overrepresented among high earners. Meanwhile, Atlanta rules among low earners because it attracts many Black Americans, who are overrepresented among low earners due in part to centuries of systemic discrimination.

Folks from high-income families are substantially more likely to move, regardless of their race. But White people are far more likely to move regardless of their family income: Even U.S.-born White people from the most modest backgrounds tend to be more mobile than their most fortunate U.S.-born Black, Asian and Hispanic friends — those whose parents earned in the top 20 percent.

Other research shows that moving to cities with better opportunities is one of the best ways to move up America’s income and class ladders. If these opportunities are disproportionately available to White people, it could exacerbate economic inequality. To be sure, this study doesn’t include immigrants — we lack comparable U.S. tax data for their parents — and other studies have shown them to be more mobile than their U.S.-born peers.

“There’s a strong sense that moving to opportunity is a key pathway for improving one’s income prospects,” Harvard’s Hendren said.

One of the most interesting things about the list, though, is what isn’t on it: Chicago.

“The Second City” is now America’s third-largest metro, but it ranks as a top-five destination only for high-income White people. By contrast, the top two metros among young opportunity-seekers — New York and Los Angeles — are broadly favored across races and income groups.

Visit migrationpatterns.org for more of the underlying data and incredibly detailed interactive maps filled with arcane factoids sure to impress your dating-app matches. (How many people who grew up in Columbia, Mo., ended up in nearby St. Louis, you ask? Why, 6.6 percent of young Black people did, compared with only 4.5 percent of young White people.)

Where teachers still use paddles

You might want to look at corporal punishment of children in schools.

— Lucien Lombardo, New York

As a means of controlling classrooms or improving academic performance, corporal punishment has an uninspiring track record. Last year, a review of 69 studies published in the medical journal the Lancet found “physical punishment is ineffective in achieving parents’ goal of improving child behaviour and instead appears to have the opposite effect of increasing unwanted behaviours.”

The good news is that, in most of the country, fewer than 0.01 percent of public school students were paddled, slapped or otherwise physically punished in the 2017-2018 school year, the most recent for which we have data from the U.S. Education Department.

The bad news is that 10 states, mostly in the South, don’t seem to have gotten the memo.

Those 10 states accounted for a full 99 percent of incidents of corporal punishment reported to the Education Department. About 75 percent happened in just four Southern states: Mississippi, Texas, Alabama and Arkansas.

Mississippi is the nation’s corporal-punishment capital, and it’s not particularly close. About 4.2 percent of students there were physically punished, more than double the rate in Arkansas, which ranked second at 1.8 percent. That adds up to more than 20,000 Mississippi students being paddled in the 2017-2018 school year — nearly a third of all American public school students who were physically punished that year.

In the 10 paddling states, Native American and Black boys are punished at the highest rates (more than double the average), while White boys and boys with disabilities also face relatively high rates of corporal punishment. Girls are physically punished at much lower rates, with Native American and Black girls and girls with disabilities bearing the brunt of such punishment in those states.

University of Texas at Austin developmental psychologist Elizabeth Gershoff, one of the authors of the Lancet study, said most research on corporal punishment focuses on parents rather than teachers and other school officials. But her review of school-focused research worldwide shows such punishment worsens students’ academics and behavior, she said.

“It is also important to note that children suffer physical pain and injury as well,” Gershoff said in an email. “This is not surprising given that children are hit with boards. If an adult was hit with such boards/paddles, it would be considered assault and the board would be considered a weapon.”

Countries that make the highest tech

Sources often quote William Gibson, telling me “The future is already here, it’s just not evenly distributed.” That raises the question: where has the future already arrived? What are the highest-tech countries on earth?

Andrew Van Dam, newspaper columnist, suburban Virginia

Astute question, Mr. Van Dam! Japan is the highest-tech nation on earth, according to a trade-data analysis from Ulrich Schetter, a researcher at Harvard University’s Growth Lab. South Korea comes in second after a meteoric rise up the ranks, and Germany is now third, having slid from the dominant technical position it held in the 1960s and ’70s.

The United States slipped to 12th, just behind France and Britain and just ahead of Singapore and Slovenia — raising the prospect that the world’s top political and military power could fall behind China, where technology is advancing steadily.

Schetter measures a country’s technological advancement with detailed trade data on more than 1,200 products. Countries climb the rankings by exporting technologically fancy things like nuclear reactors, electric trains and clock movements, but rank lower if they trade in less-advanced fare such as bags (for packing), tobacco or tubers.

Though his methodology may be complicated — he computes a massive matrix and assesses how similar every possible pair of countries is in terms of the items they trade — the idea behind it is pretty intuitive, Schetter said.

“Basically, you just say, ‘Okay, let me just look at the technology capabilities of countries, which is revealed through the products that they make,’ ” Schetter told us.

By this measure, Asian countries such as Thailand and Vietnam rank higher than you’d expect, as do such former Warsaw Pact stalwarts as Poland and the Czech Republic.

The best question we can’t answer

Mehmet Oz is a Turkish citizen, running for the U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania. Have any Americans run for a foreign office?

— Jim Ward, Alexandria, Va.

Our immediate answer to your question is: Yes, at least one.

Éamon de Valera was born in New York City in 1882 to an Irish mother and moved to Ireland as an infant. A prominent leader in the Easter Rising, he would become the country’s first prime minister (Taoiseach) and remain a dominant force in Irish politics until he retired from the presidency at age 90 in 1973.

But if anyone out there has compiled systematic data on this question, we’d love to see it!

Howdy! The Department of Data has an endless appetite for fun facts! What are the lowest-tax states? Why have fire deaths in the U.S. risen steadily for the past decade? When money is tight, what health-care needs do Americans ignore first? Just ask!

To get every question, answer and factoid in your inbox as soon as we publish, sign up here. If your question inspires a column, we’ll send an official Department of Data button and ID card. This week, the buttons go to Jeff, Lucien and Jim, who posed the questions above.

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