Although the concept of the American Dream means different things to different people, one constant across definitions is economic mobility—the idea that, generation after generation, children will wind up better off than their parents. Earlier this year, the Precision Institute at National University and the San Diego Workforce Partnership hosted a regional summit at which prominent economist Dr. Raj Chetty offered up data on how well the American Dream is faring in San Diego as well as a research-based analysis of the ways communities can help more of their residents become upwardly mobile.

Dr. Raj Chetty, Ph.D.

Dr. Chetty, a professor at Stanford University and the most recent guest of the Precision Institute at National University Distinguished Speaker Series, has gathered extensive data to show that the likelihood that children will earn more than their parents when they reach adulthood has fallen from 90 percent to 50 percent since the 1940s. The Equality of Opportunity Project, which Dr. Chetty leads, has also determined that economic mobility is far greater in some communities than in others. That is reason for optimism, he said, because it means there are steps communities can take to bring the American Dream within reach of more of their residents.

According to Dr. Chetty, San Diego’s economic mobility rate is slightly higher than the national average but it is still low: only about 10 percent of area children born into families with incomes in the bottom quartile will wind up with incomes in the top quartile by the time they reach their 30s. The growing cost of housing in San Diego, increasing income inequality, and increasing racial segregation are among the contributing factors. Not surprisingly, access to high-quality K-12 and higher education is one of the factors that help people get ahead, he said.

Dr. Chetty’s insights about trends in opportunity and economic mobility and his ability to analyze them by location were possible only because he had access to enormous amounts of data about individuals’ life trajectories. Communities like San Diego can also use data to zero in on solutions that will strengthen the economic outlook for individuals as well as the region.

That’s what we’re trying to do with the Precision Institute at National University. We are exploring ways to use technology to extract insights from data of all types that we can use to increase our students’ chances of succeeding both educationally and economically. The leaders from business, research, government, nonprofits, and education who attended the Chetty event also have the opportunity to share data to uncover ways they can, collectively, help more San Diegans achieve their own American Dreams. We at National University and the Precision Institute stand ready to help.

Blog post is by Dr. David Andrews, President of National University. Precision Education at National University is a research-based initiative that is exploring new ways to leverage technology, open education resources, and predictive data analytics to adapt to student needs and guide them to successful completion of their academic and career goals. To learn about past and upcoming Distinguished Speakers Series hosted by the Precision Institute at National University, please visit the Distinguished Speakers Series page.