Counties where children have the best opportunity for economic mobility in Virginia

Stock image. Karolina Grabowska (Pexels)

Americans have long understood that their birthplace can significantly affect their futures, and academics have increasingly been able to connect tangible early life factors like where they live and the friendships they’ve cultivated with potential future income.

Among the most recent studies shedding light on what's known as economic mobility—a person's ability to move themselves and their families up the socioeconomic ladder over their lifetime—are a series of papers authored by Harvard University researchers leveraging vast troves of social networking data.

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As part of a national analysis, Wealth Enhancement Group used data from Harvard University's Social Capital Atlas project to identify where in Virginia children have the best (and worst) chances at upward economic mobility.

The research draws on a privacy-protected dataset representing 21 billion friendships from Facebook made public through its parent company Meta's Data for Good project. It also uses anonymous tax records, according to the authors. The scholars assigned a score to locales according to how economically connected low- and high-income people living in the area have historically been over at least a decade, per that data. The dataset does not include scores for about 180 of the 3,000 or so counties in the U.S.

The research attempts to fill in the gaps of previous efforts to study American economic mobility that did not consider a person's vast social networks nor their importance in creating better lives for themselves and their children.

It turns out the ability to cultivate friendships linking people of different socioeconomic backgrounds with one another is the strongest factor in determining whether a child can surpass the earning potential of their parents, Harvard researchers found. They call this economic connectedness.

Read on to find out where economic connectedness is strongest in your state.

Jordan Kercheff // Shutterstock

#50. Craig County

- Economic connectedness: 0.84 - Median Income: $60,283 - Population: 4,914 --- 96.2% white --- 0% Black --- 0% American Indian and Alaska Native --- 0% Asian

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#49. Roanoke County

- Economic connectedness: 0.85 - Median Income: $74,622 - Population: 96,303 --- 86.8% white --- 5.8% Black --- 0.2% American Indian and Alaska Native --- 3.6% Asian

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#48. Westmoreland County

- Economic connectedness: 0.85 - Median Income: $53,113 - Population: 18,324 --- 65.1% white --- 25.5% Black --- 0.2% American Indian and Alaska Native --- 1% Asian

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#47. Middlesex County

- Economic connectedness: 0.86 - Median Income: $63,782 - Population: 10,686 --- 78.8% white --- 15.7% Black --- 0.2% American Indian and Alaska Native --- 1.4% Asian

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#46. Chesapeake

- Economic connectedness: 0.86 - Median Income: $85,563 - Population: 247,172 --- 58.3% white --- 29.6% Black --- 0.2% American Indian and Alaska Native --- 3.5% Asian

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#45. Amelia County

- Economic connectedness: 0.87 - Median Income: $57,420 - Population: 13,220 --- 75.5% white --- 22.1% Black --- 0% American Indian and Alaska Native --- 0% Asian

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#44. Manassas

- Economic connectedness: 0.87 - Median Income: $101,934 - Population: 42,596 --- 57.6% white --- 13.2% Black --- 0.3% American Indian and Alaska Native --- 5.6% Asian

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#43. Winchester

- Economic connectedness: 0.87 - Median Income: $61,321 - Population: 28,194 --- 74.4% white --- 9.6% Black --- 0.3% American Indian and Alaska Native --- 2.3% Asian

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#42. Surry County

- Economic connectedness: 0.88 - Median Income: $61,105 - Population: 6,563 --- 55.7% white --- 43.2% Black --- 0% American Indian and Alaska Native --- 0.1% Asian

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#41. Floyd County

- Economic connectedness: 0.88 - Median Income: $51,612 - Population: 15,536 --- 94.3% white --- 2.8% Black --- 0.3% American Indian and Alaska Native --- 0.5% Asian

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#40. Louisa County

- Economic connectedness: 0.89 - Median Income: $70,974 - Population: 37,136 --- 78.6% white --- 13.7% Black --- 0.2% American Indian and Alaska Native --- 0.5% Asian

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#39. Botetourt County

- Economic connectedness: 0.89 - Median Income: $72,941 - Population: 33,542 --- 93% white --- 2.6% Black --- 0.2% American Indian and Alaska Native --- 0.5% Asian

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#38. Caroline County

- Economic connectedness: 0.89 - Median Income: $76,528 - Population: 30,861 --- 65.1% white --- 25.5% Black --- 0.4% American Indian and Alaska Native --- 1% Asian

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#37. Shenandoah County

- Economic connectedness: 0.89 - Median Income: $58,609 - Population: 44,037 --- 90.6% white --- 1.9% Black --- 0.1% American Indian and Alaska Native --- 1.1% Asian

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#36. Greene County

- Economic connectedness: 0.89 - Median Income: $73,844 - Population: 20,374 --- 81.3% white --- 6.3% Black --- 0.2% American Indian and Alaska Native --- 2.1% Asian

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#35. Gloucester County

- Economic connectedness: 0.9 - Median Income: $77,733 - Population: 38,586 --- 85.4% white --- 8.6% Black --- 0.1% American Indian and Alaska Native --- 0.8% Asian

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#34. Culpeper County

- Economic connectedness: 0.9 - Median Income: $85,274 - Population: 52,021 --- 72.2% white --- 13.5% Black --- 0.3% American Indian and Alaska Native --- 1% Asian

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#33. Henrico County

- Economic connectedness: 0.91 - Median Income: $76,345 - Population: 331,924 --- 53.6% white --- 29.6% Black --- 0.2% American Indian and Alaska Native --- 9.2% Asian

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#32. Dinwiddie County

- Economic connectedness: 0.91 - Median Income: $68,918 - Population: 28,040 --- 64.5% white --- 31.5% Black --- 0% American Indian and Alaska Native --- 0.8% Asian

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#31. James City County

- Economic connectedness: 0.92 - Median Income: $94,907 - Population: 77,733 --- 78.1% white --- 12.7% Black --- 0.1% American Indian and Alaska Native --- 2.6% Asian

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#30. Mathews County

- Economic connectedness: 0.92 - Median Income: $73,229 - Population: 8,548 --- 87% white --- 9.3% Black --- 0% American Indian and Alaska Native --- 0% Asian

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#29. Isle of Wight County

- Economic connectedness: 0.93 - Median Income: $84,673 - Population: 38,301 --- 71.2% white --- 22.6% Black --- 0.1% American Indian and Alaska Native --- 1% Asian

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#28. Fluvanna County

- Economic connectedness: 0.93 - Median Income: $82,983 - Population: 27,078 --- 78.5% white --- 14.4% Black --- 0.1% American Indian and Alaska Native --- 1.2% Asian

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#27. Frederick County

- Economic connectedness: 0.94 - Median Income: $84,317 - Population: 90,287 --- 87.8% white --- 4% Black --- 0.4% American Indian and Alaska Native --- 1.6% Asian

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#26. Radford

- Economic connectedness: 0.94 - Median Income: $44,360 - Population: 16,205 --- 84.6% white --- 9.1% Black --- 0% American Indian and Alaska Native --- 1.9% Asian

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#25. King William County

- Economic connectedness: 0.95 - Median Income: $74,592 - Population: 17,511 --- 78.8% white --- 15.2% Black --- 1% American Indian and Alaska Native --- 1.4% Asian

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#24. Warren County

- Economic connectedness: 0.95 - Median Income: $72,840 - Population: 40,442 --- 86.7% white --- 4.5% Black --- 0.1% American Indian and Alaska Native --- 1.2% Asian

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#23. Fredericksburg

- Economic connectedness: 0.95 - Median Income: $72,293 - Population: 28,027 --- 61.9% white --- 20.7% Black --- 0.1% American Indian and Alaska Native --- 3.5% Asian

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#22. Albemarle County

- Economic connectedness: 0.96 - Median Income: $90,568 - Population: 111,438 --- 79.9% white --- 8.8% Black --- 0.3% American Indian and Alaska Native --- 5.6% Asian

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#21. Goochland County

- Economic connectedness: 0.96 - Median Income: $100,517 - Population: 24,300 --- 79% white --- 15.3% Black --- 0% American Indian and Alaska Native --- 1.7% Asian

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#20. Orange County

- Economic connectedness: 0.97 - Median Income: $79,211 - Population: 36,001 --- 79.2% white --- 12.8% Black --- 0% American Indian and Alaska Native --- 1.4% Asian

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#19. Madison County

- Economic connectedness: 0.97 - Median Income: $72,349 - Population: 13,731 --- 86.4% white --- 7.4% Black --- 0% American Indian and Alaska Native --- 0.8% Asian

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#18. Virginia Beach

- Economic connectedness: 0.98 - Median Income: $81,810 - Population: 457,658 --- 63.9% white --- 19% Black --- 0.2% American Indian and Alaska Native --- 7% Asian

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#17. Montgomery County

- Economic connectedness: 0.98 - Median Income: $60,666 - Population: 99,294 --- 84.9% white --- 4.3% Black --- 0.4% American Indian and Alaska Native --- 6.5% Asian

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#16. Spotsylvania County

- Economic connectedness: 0.99 - Median Income: $98,973 - Population: 138,493 --- 69.7% white --- 16.5% Black --- 0.4% American Indian and Alaska Native --- 2.7% Asian

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#15. King George County

- Economic connectedness: 0.99 - Median Income: $101,599 - Population: 26,597 --- 75.2% white --- 16.7% Black --- 0.1% American Indian and Alaska Native --- 1.2% Asian

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#14. Prince William County

- Economic connectedness: 1. - Median Income: $113,831 - Population: 477,224 --- 52.8% white --- 20.9% Black --- 0.5% American Indian and Alaska Native --- 9.4% Asian

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#13. Hanover County

- Economic connectedness: 1.01 - Median Income: $96,911 - Population: 109,232 --- 84.1% white --- 8.7% Black --- 0.2% American Indian and Alaska Native --- 1.7% Asian

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#12. New Kent County

- Economic connectedness: 1.01 - Median Income: $101,628 - Population: 22,519 --- 80.5% white --- 12.7% Black --- 0.8% American Indian and Alaska Native --- 1% Asian

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#11. York County

- Economic connectedness: 1.04 - Median Income: $96,144 - Population: 69,635 --- 72.2% white --- 13.1% Black --- 0.1% American Indian and Alaska Native --- 5.4% Asian

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#10. Powhatan County

- Economic connectedness: 1.08 - Median Income: $101,395 - Population: 29,979 --- 86.2% white --- 9.1% Black --- 0.3% American Indian and Alaska Native --- 0.2% Asian

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#9. Poquoson

- Economic connectedness: 1.09 - Median Income: $112,026 - Population: 12,382 --- 93.1% white --- 1.5% Black --- 0% American Indian and Alaska Native --- 1.8% Asian

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#8. Clarke County

- Economic connectedness: 1.09 - Median Income: $86,633 - Population: 14,726 --- 89% white --- 4.8% Black --- 0% American Indian and Alaska Native --- 1.5% Asian

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#7. Fauquier County

- Economic connectedness: 1.09 - Median Income: $111,368 - Population: 72,416 --- 84.3% white --- 6.9% Black --- 0.3% American Indian and Alaska Native --- 1.6% Asian

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#6. Stafford County

- Economic connectedness: 1.1 - Median Income: $119,818 - Population: 154,204 --- 63.3% white --- 18.2% Black --- 0.3% American Indian and Alaska Native --- 3.3% Asian

Kristi Blokhin // Shutterstock

#5. Rappahannock County

- Economic connectedness: 1.12 - Median Income: $90,307 - Population: 7,400 --- 88.9% white --- 4% Black --- 0.3% American Indian and Alaska Native --- 0.5% Asian

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#4. Alexandria

- Economic connectedness: 1.17 - Median Income: $105,450 - Population: 158,185 --- 58.8% white --- 21.6% Black --- 0.2% American Indian and Alaska Native --- 6.4% Asian

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#3. Fairfax County

- Economic connectedness: 1.19 - Median Income: $133,974 - Population: 1,146,825 --- 56.6% white --- 9.8% Black --- 0.4% American Indian and Alaska Native --- 20% Asian

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#2. Loudoun County

- Economic connectedness: 1.22 - Median Income: $156,821 - Population: 413,574 --- 59.8% white --- 7.6% Black --- 0.3% American Indian and Alaska Native --- 20% Asian

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#1. Arlington County

- Economic connectedness: 1.27 - Median Income: $128,145 - Population: 235,764 --- 67.2% white --- 9.4% Black --- 0.4% American Indian and Alaska Native --- 10.2% Asian

This story features data reporting and writing by Dom DiFurio and is part of a series utilizing data automation across 50 states.

This story originally appeared on Wealth Enhancement Group and was produced and distributed in partnership with Stacker Studio.