The New York Times last week ran a fascinating map of economic mobility in the United States. South Dakota sites amidst a belt of Grain Plains opportunity, where apparently young people have a better chance of climbing from the bottom fifth of income to the top fifth.
What factors contribute to this higher mobility? The Harvard researchers say they're only finding correlation, not causation, but they cite progressivity of tax structure (must have fouled the South Dakota data there!), tax expenditures, decreased racial segregation (see the relatively poor mobility in Indian Country), higher K-12 test scores and spending per student, and even higher proportions of religious folks and lower proportions of single parent families as strong correlates of economic mobility.
If you can climb the ladder better in South Dakota than elsewhere, it's still a shaky ladder. Wider Opportunities for Women issued this Economic Security Scorecard that gives South Dakota mostly Cs and Ds on 85 policy measures. Our best score, an A+, comes in our unemployment benefits exhaustion rate, meaning we're paying out less of our unemployment benefits fund than any other state.
But overall, South Dakota ranks 45th for worker economic security. We are the worst in our region: Iowa is best in the neighborhood, ranking 10th, followed by Minnesota at 13th. Once again, big business and crony capitalists may think South Dakota's the best place to make a fortune. But that success is built on exploiting workers and leaving them in the lurch.