Mega-City One is the land of opportunity. (credit: Lionsgate)

Imagine a high-density city, and you probably think of something like Mega-City One, full of pollution, poverty, and huge, ugly housing projects. But the reality, according to new research in urban studies, is that high-density city plans offer residents more economic opportunities. Especially for people who want to give their children better lives, high-density cities are the most likely to deliver on the American Dream.

Measuring sprawl and economic mobility

Upward mobility is on the decline in the US. Once billed as a land of opportunity for the poor and hardworking, the country now offers little hope to people born in poverty. Writing in the latest issue of Landscape and Urban Planning, the researchers note that the "chance of upward mobility for Americans is just half that of the citizens of Denmark and many other European countries." A study from the Brookings Institution found that "39 percent of children born to parents in the top fifth of the income distribution will remain in the top fifth for life, while 42 percent of children born to parents in the bottom fifth income distribution will stay in that bottom fifth."

But some parts of the country are better off than others. As the researchers explain:

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