Evidence Resource Library
Learn more about the predictive factors that influence upward mobility over the course of people’s lives and how we chose them.

  • Access to Health Services
    Access to and utilization of health services leads to improved physical health, which promotes power and autonomy. Lack of access to health services can lead to unmet health needs for children, adolescents, and adults.
  • Access to Jobs Paying a Living Wage
    A living wage is the level of earnings that equals or exceeds the cost of a family’s basic needs for food, clothing, shelter, child care, health care, and transportation. Living-wage jobs provide opportunities for work that enable people to meet their families’ financial needs, supporting both economic success and feelings of autonomy.
  • Access to Preschool
    We focus here on early childhood education that begins before kindergarten for children ages 2 to 5 and highlights how preschool and pre-kindergarten, or pre-K, strengthen academic success and school readiness, particularly in the short term and for children who have experienced poverty. Improving access to preschool in a community can enhance academic success for lower-income children. Preschool enables children to develop critical cognitive skills that set them up for success through higher test scores both in kindergarten and throughout school (Magnuson and Duncan 2016).
  • Belongingness
    This predictor assessment describes the relationship between a sense of belonging and socioemotional development and well-being. This predictor is directly related to mobility as a measure of belonging in community itself and having a sense of value.
  • College Access
    College access includes accessing higher education after receiving a GED or high school diploma. This predictor assessment explores the relationship between accessing postsecondary education and later-life economic and noneconomic outcomes, such as income and health. Having a college degree broadens career options—for example, by providing greater access to jobs that pay a higher wage—leading to greater economic success.
  • Coping with Stress
    This predictor assessment looks at the relationship between coping strategies and the psychological and physical health of children and adolescents. Coping strategies can allow children and adolescents to better regulate their emotions and exert some control over situations that provoke stress or trauma. Children and adolescents who can respond appropriately to and manage stress are more engaged in the classroom and more likely to absorb what they are learning and are therefore more likely to excel in school and beyond.
  • Criminal Record
    This predictor assessment describes the relationship between having a criminal record and future employment and economic success. People with a criminal record are often excluded from job opportunities, and that exclusion can limit their options for economic success and their ability to determine their future.
  • Depression
    Mental health, including emotional and behavioral well-being, is an important part of overall health. Untreated depression negatively effects how youth and adults handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. Untreated depression can affect memory function, risk-taking behavior, sleep, and adherence to medical plans for other conditions.
  • Descriptive Representation
    Descriptive representation among local officials refers to having a racial or ethnic distribution among local officials that matches the distribution of the residents they represent. This predictor describes the effects that being or feeling represented by local officials has on a given person’s civic engagement as well as their sense of belonging and empowerment. Having local elected officials whose demographic characteristics (i.e., gender, race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation) broadly reflect those of their constituents correlates with greater feelings of political influence (power and autonomy) and engagement among otherwise underrepresented demographic groups (being valued in community).
  • Digital Access
    Digital access is the ability to fully participate in a digital society. It includes access to tools and technologies, such as internet and computers, that allow for full participation. A lack of digital access has adverse effects on cognitive development, educational attainment, and skill building. These variables are strongly linked to an individual’s economic success as well as their sense of power and autonomy.
  • Disciplinary Actions
    This predictor describes trends in school disciplinary actions and policies as they relate to educational attainment, student belongingness, and short- and long-term educational outcomes. Harsh disciplinary practices (demonstrated, for example, by a school with a high suspension rate) can negatively affect students’ feelings of belonging in their school, an influential environment in which they develop behaviorally and academically. Being suspended also removes students’ sense of autonomy over their lives. Harsh disciplinary actions can also lead to a loss of days in school, poorer school performance, and lower educational attainment later in life.  
  • Economic Inclusion
    Class-based segregation negatively affects the stability and health of one’s living environment. The socioeconomic level of a given residential neighborhood and school system affects the health, education, and employment outcomes of its residents.
  • Effective Public Education
    School quality influences children’s cognitive and social development. Attending lower-quality schools reduces a child’s chances of attending and succeeding at postsecondary institutions, thereby negatively affecting their potential for economic success.
  • Employment Opportunities
    This predictor describes the relationship between employment and later economic success, such as future employment outcomes, earnings, and job quality. This predictor is directly related to mobility as a measure of economic success, but it also related to other mobility principles through mental and physical health; autonomy on the job; and self-esteem, participation in social activities, and disruption to the household (thus connecting to power and autonomy and being valued in community). Employment is usually a person’s main source of income and economic stability. Having stability can offer an individual more daily predictability and control over his or her life. Being employed and part of the workforce can also reinforce a person’s feeling of value and belonging in community as a positive contributor to the economy and society.
  • Engagement with School
    This predictor captures the relationship between student engagement with school and school success and feeling connected to the school community and learning. School engagement can predict school dropout, which can impede a person’s potential to pursue higher education or access gainful employment. Thus, engagement with school is linked to broader quality of life (Christenson, Reschly, and Wyle 2012).
  • Environmental Quality
    The state of the natural and built environments that people interact with in their daily lives can affect health and well-being. Poor environmental quality factors, such as poor air quality, extreme heat, vulnerability to disasters, or exposure to toxic wastes, can be barriers to mobility and exacerbate the effects of poverty.
  • Family Stability
    This predictor describes how family stability from early childhood through adolescence affects stable and healthy living environments and economic success. Family stability and structure are intimately tied to children’s emotional well-being and cognitive development and to social systems such as public assistance and criminal justice.
  • Financial Security and Wealth-Building Opportunities
    Financial security suggests that a household has wealth to weather an economic shock, such as a job loss or a health emergency. Wealth is often defined as a person’s net worth or the sum of the value of a person’s assets, as well debts. The presence of debt can also signify financial insecurity. Unexpected loss of income, health emergencies, and other debt crises are all components of financial insecurity and have the power to undermine an individual’s economic success, personal power, and autonomy. Access to medical care, home loans and small-business loans, and the capacity to build savings are key components of financial security. Improved financial security positively influences families’ and individuals’ capacity to weather economic shocks, invest in physical health, and build more sustainable wealth.

Project Credits

Technical Review

Claudia D. Solari, Gregory Acs, Tina Chelidze, Samantha Fu, K. Steven Brown


Sophia Yin, Jincy Wilson, Margaret Todd, Laura Sullivan, Kassie Scott, Madeline Sirois, Aaron Shroyer, Lily Robin, Kriti Ramakrishnan, Julia Payne, Wilton Oliver, Rebecca Marx, DaQuan Lawrence, Sarah Knoweles, Nora Hakizimana, Peace Gwam, Jorge Gonzalez-Hermoso, Aundreya Batson


Michael Marazzi, Casey Simmons


Jerry Ta, Patrick Walsh

Suggested Citation

Urban Institute. [Date Posted]. Evidence Resource Library: [Predictor]. Washington, DC. [Https link to specific predictor].

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