I grew up in an old steel town not far from Cincinnati. It is exactly the kind of place that people have in mind when they talk about the end of economic mobility in America: With bad public schools and businesses closing by the day, Middletown, Ohio, is an awful place to get ahead.
It wasn’t always like this. When my grandparents moved there from the extreme poverty of Appalachian Kentucky, Middletown was a kind of oasis. Lured by the promise of well-paying jobs in the steel mill, thousands reestablished themselves in Middletown. It was ground zero for the American Dream — a home for those willing to strive for a better life. Now Middletown typifies something else: the precipitous decline of economic mobility.