Cities and Opportunity in 21st Century America

Learn more about J.H. Cullum Clark.
J.H. Cullum Clark
Director, Bush Institute-SMU Economic Growth Initiative
George W. Bush Institute

How America can create more cities of opportunity

This report explores why cities and neighborhoods so strongly influence economic mobility and how America can create more cities of opportunity.


We examine overall income and wealth trends and those for individual metropolitan areas. High-performing metros for economic mobility have been unusually successful in fostering relatively high college completion, job-market access, new business creation, and housing affordability. They also tend to score high for social capital – the dense fabric of social connection and civic engagement that makes a community tick. 


We identify 61 standout metros for economic mobility, together home to 80 million Americans. Many high-opportunity metros are mid-sized and middle-income rather than large and wealthy – showing that creating a high-opportunity city doesn’t require the vast wealth of America’s top technology or finance capitals. Every city or town has unexplored avenues to promote opportunity, one neighborhood at a time.