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This is a fascinating site that compares the county in which you grew up with every other county in the United States. This appeared in the Upshot section of the online New York Times. It is a stunning example of GIS finding its way into the mainstream.

The Best and Worse Places to Grow Up


Here's a part of the write-up for my part of Michigan. I was raised in St. Clair County and have lived in Sanilac County for 25 years. This text changes with each county you select. Try yours!


Across the country, the researchers found five factors associated with strong upward mobility: less segregation by income and race, lower levels of income inequality, better schools, lower rates of violent crime, and a larger share of two-parent households. In general, the effects of place are sharper for boys than for girls, and for lower-income children than for rich.

Sanilac County is pretty good for income mobility for children in poor families. It is better than about 72 percent of counties.


Location matters – enormously. If you’re poor and live in the Detroit area, it’s better to be in Sanilac County than in Wayne County orGenesee County. Not only that, the younger you are when you move toSanilac, the better you will do on average. Children who move at earlier ages are less likely to become single parents, more likely to go to college and more likely to earn more.

Every year a poor child spends in Sanilac County adds about $100 to his or her annual household income at age 26, compared with a childhood spent in the average American county. Over the course of a full childhood, which is up to age 20 for the purposes of this analysis, the difference adds up to about $2,100, or 8 percent, more in average income as a young adult.

These findings, particularly those that show how much each additional year matters, are from a new study by Raj Chetty and Nathaniel Hendren that has huge consequences on how we think about poverty and mobility in the United States. The pair, economists at Harvard, have long been known for their work on income mobility, but the latest findings go further. Now, the researchers are no longer confined to talking about which counties merely correlate well with income mobility; new data suggests some places actually cause it.

Consider Sanilac County, Mich., the focus of this article. (Feel free to change to another place by selecting a new county on the map or using the search boxes throughout this page.)

It’s one of the better counties in the U.S. in helping poor children up the income ladder. It ranks 1,777th out of 2,478 counties, better than about 72 percent of counties. It ranks better for poor children than it does for rich children.

Here are the estimates for how much 20 years of childhood in Sanilac County adds or takes away from a child’s income (compared with an average county), along with the national percentile ranking for each.

What a Childhood in Sanilac County Does to Future Income

For poor kids

All kids+$2,06072%


For average-income kids

All kids+$88052%


For rich kids

All kids-$41022%


For kids in the top 1%

All kids-$1,47010%