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Americans born in poverty (particularly those from certain cities) are unlikely to make significant financial gains in their lifetime, according to data from economists. A team of researchers from Harvard and UC Berkley gathered data (read research paper here) over three decades to conclude that Americans born below the poverty line had only a 10% chance of breaking free.

For example, a child born between 1980 and 1985 in Memphis had only a 2.6% chance of earning in the top 20% of the nation's pay scales by the time he/she reached adulthood.

A report on the findings, published by financial journal and news service provider 24/7 Wall St, claims that although causes for low economic mobility are both widespread and region-specific, there are certain commonalities in the way poverty is spread.

It is suggested that factors like poor schools, low standards of education and low levels of funding could contribute to the problem. It was also suggested that single-mother households were more prevalent in cities with low economic mobility, although it is unclear if a causal relationship exists.

Poverty segregation was also noticed across a number of cities and although exact relationships are still to be established, it is interesting to note that Memphis has both the least upward mobility and highest segregation.

All in all, it appears there is a vicious cycle in play, whereby increased levels of poverty lead to disadvantages in resources available and so on.

Using this data, 24/7 Wall St has ranked cities on the basis of rate of upward economic mobility, percentage of single-mother households and high school dropout rates from 2000 to 2001.

Click on Start to find out the ten American cities likely to remain poor...