Helping Local Governments Choose the Right Strategy to Drive Upward Mobility
By Ross Tilchin
How do local government leaders decide where to spend scarce resources? It’s a fundamental question with deep ramifications on the likelihood of upward mobility for residents in every city and county across the country.
Results for America developed the Economic Mobility Catalog to help local leaders identify and implement evidence-based solutions to improve residents’ quality of life and likelihood of upward mobility. The resource contains overviews, evidence summaries, and implementation best practices for over 200 programs and strategies, as well as 50 case studies that explore how specific jurisdictions successfully implemented evidence-based approaches. New program entries and case studies are added to the resource on a regular basis.
But how can local leaders determine if a strategy in the Economic Mobility Catalog is right for their community? After all, every community faces different challenges, and assessing local needs is more easily said than done. If you are a local leader, how do you know which investments to prioritize?
The Framework identifies a series of predictors that are strongly correlated with upward mobility. For each predictor, it provides evidence-based metrics (called Mobility Metrics) that have been tested around the country and which empower local leaders to assess conditions in that domain. For example, the Framework identifies housing stability as a predictor of upward mobility, and the Mobility Metric it suggests for measuring housing stability in any particular community is the number and share of public school children who experience homelessness during the school year. Another predictor of upward mobility is economic inclusion, and the suggested Mobility Metric is the share of people experiencing poverty who live in high-poverty neighborhoods.
While the predictors and metrics are not comprehensive, they offer local leaders a strong starting point in determining where additional investments might make the greatest impact. For leaders in cities and counties with populations above 75,000, the Urban Institute’s newly-released Mobility Metrics Data Tables feature offers comprehensive readouts that show where communities stand on every identified predictor of upward mobility.
Now, in the Economic Mobility Catalog, each of the 53 strategies in the resource is linked to the relevant predictors from the Upward Mobility Framework. On each of these pages, the Catalog identifies the specific metrics that leaders can use to assess how their community is doing in that space.
Investing in the right economic mobility solutions also requires authentic community engagement. The Mobility Metrics in the Upward Mobility Framework can be a starting point for government leaders to work with community based organizations and residents to identify the community’s most urgent needs, prioritize investments, and build broad support for evidence-based strategies that can contribute to better outcomes.
Our hope is this new feature, alongside the Catalog’s existing content (as well as resources like the Urban Institute’s Planning Guide for Local Action and Opportunity Insights’ Opportunity Atlas), will empower city and county leaders to follow the evidence at multiple steps of their decision-making processes. The tool can also help local leaders make a powerful case for needed investments, all in an accessible, easy-to-use format.
Reversing the decades-long trend of stagnant and declining economic mobility will not be easy. But equipped with better access to data, guidance on key metrics, and examples of evidence-based solutions, local governments and their community partners can more quickly realize their goals of expanding opportunity for residents.