Many things affect your success in life: from your own drive and ambition, to those more out of your control such as social and health factors. New reported research has compared upward mobility rates across America, finding that geography has a lot to do with it.

You’re probably thinking that we know that already, and you would be right. But this research has found that upward mobility is not only affected by the socioeconomic standing of the area, but also the proximity to other areas. That is, “All else being equal, upward mobility tended to be higher in metropolitan areas where poor families were more dispersed among mixed-income neighborhoods”.

This is pretty interesting – it’s not just about where you live, but what kinds of areas you’re close to as well. I relate this to volunteer work I did during university, with kids in a regional area of New South Wales. A lot of the girls ended up pregnant quite young, without the desire to study further or pursue a career. And it often came down to the fact that they’d never really seen the older women in their lives do anything of the sort.

Perhaps if they had had some kind of contact with motivated young women, who were studying and working with big dreams, they might have seen this lifestyle as a possibility for themselves. Therefore I guess the study shows that even if people live in a low socioeconomic area, their contact with people of mixed income levels might give them a push towards getting out of a low-income cycle.

The ability to ascend the income ladder was also found to be higher in areas with more two-parent households, better schools and more civic engagement such as involvement in religious or community groups – but these are somewhat familiar ideas.

Tamara El-Rahi is an associate editor of MercatorNet. A Journalism graduate from the University of Technology Sydney, she lives in Australia with her husband and two daughters.