(RNN) - Americans take pride in living in a land of opportunity, where you can "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" and succeed in the face of adversity. But recent research shows that old adage may not be true, depending on where in the country you live.
Residents of states in the Mideast and New England regions are more likely to move up on the economic ladder than anywhere in the country, while Southern states suffered through the opposite trend, according to a new study from the Pew Center on the States.
The information "answers questions integral to the fabric of our nation, for example: Is the American dream alive and well?" according to Pew Economic Mobility Project research manager Diana Elliott. "It's interesting that data at the state level shows that there might not be equal opportunity [everywhere]."
Residents of Maryland, New Jersey and New York were more likely than average to see their wages grow and move up in overall economic ranking. The states were also less likely than average to see a significant move down the economic ladder.
Connecticut, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Utah were also heralded as good for upward mobility.
Meanwhile, Louisiana, Oklahoma and South Carolina saw the opposite scenario play out, with residents more likely to see their wages shrink and to move down the economic ladder.
Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina and Texas also fared poorly, according to researchers. The southern states had a much higher number of people facing downward mobility than upward mobility.
The study didn't delve into questions over why the regions fared differently, or why the South had such a high concentration of downward mobility. However, earlier studies from the group show there are certain drivers of mobility, including education, neighborhood poverty during childhood, savings and asset building.
"Mobility doesn't happen in a vacuum, a lot of things happen that cause people to get ahead and fall behind," said Erin Currier, project manager for the Pew Economic Mobility Project.
The report, Economic Mobility of the States, examined earnings during prime-working years, from 34 to 49 years old, over a 10-year period. The information was examined on a state-by-state basis to see just where people had seen their stock rise and where they've seen more struggles in recent years.
The study used confidential data from the U.S. Census Bureau to examine a person's earnings when they were in their mid- to late-30s, and again in their mid- to late-40s to determine whether they had moved up or down the economic ladder.
The report is the first to analyze economic mobility on the state, rather than national, level.
"It's extremely difficult to get long data that looks at people over a long period of time," Currier said. "We were able to work with a researcher who had access to restricted-use census data."
The study found that people moving from one state to another had no effect on a state's overall level of economic mobility because of people's tendency to stay in their home state. However, those who moved away from their home state had higher upward mobility.
Copyright 2012 Raycom News Network. All rights reserved.