Upward mobility is a big part of the American Dream, and William McGurn comments on two new studies on upward mobility in today's Wall Street Journal.

Based on the findings of these studies, McGurn has a bit of advice for young African Americans who live in riot-torn Baltimore and want to better their lot in life: leave town.

McGurn writes:

Of all the “solutions” for post-riot Baltimore, the best—at least for African-Americans trapped in poverty—appears to be the one that attracts the least notice: Find a new town to call home.

The message comes via two new studies of upward mobility. The first is from Harvard’s The Equality of Opportunity Project. It finds that a poor child whose family leaves a bad neighborhood for a good one will have better long-term economic prospects.

The other, by Joel Kotkin’s Center for Opportunity Urbanism, measures (by median household income, self-employment, housing affordability and population growth) the best and worst cities for America’s racial minorities. Its finding puts self-styled progressives to shame: Of the top 15 cities for African-Americans today, 13 are in the former Confederacy.

Let’s not mince words. The Harvard study identifies Baltimore as the city where the odds are most stacked against a child’s escaping poverty. Mr. Kotkin says his center’s study underscores “the relative worthlessness of good intentions.”

According to McGurn, the studies also point to the worthlessness of most of the prescriptions coming from elected officials, including President Obama (spend more!) and Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake (pay for our riot damage!).

It should be acknowledged that Kotkin’s study does cite Baltimore as a place where blacks do well; but, as McGurn points out, this is an “artificial prosperity,” based on closeness to Washington and federal jobs. Nobody who has seen the Baltimore riots on TV wants to raise a kid in the affected neighborhoods.

As a southerner, I was pleased to read the following in McGurn’s piece:

The Center for Opportunity Urbanism’s study compares what it calls “luxury cities” such as New York and San Francisco with the “opportunity cities” of the Sunbelt. While the former have “strongly progressive politics” that include “more generous welfare provisions,” they simply don’t deliver the goods for minorities. Even more ironically, as San Francisco shows, the “hipster economies” so beloved by urban progressive planners tend in practice to result in whiter and less ethnically diverse cities. …

Hedge-fundies and CEOs are going to make money even in the slowest-growing economy. But for African-Americans stuck in dream-killing cities like Baltimore, what does it say about progressive fixes that their best option is to pick up and head south?