A city’s rate of upward economic mobility from one generation to the next is strongly linked to its investment in its youth-serving nonprofits.

That’s a finding in an analysis Bolster Mission conducted that links data on upward mobility from Opportunity Insights at Harvard University to IRS data on nonprofit charitable donations.

We used the extraordinary trove of IRS data (electronically filed 990 forms) first released in 2016 as the result of a public interest lawsuit. Researchers have only recently wrestled this data into a usable format and begun to analyze it.

Twenty-Five Largest Commuting Zones, Three Findings

We analyzed 990 tax form data of 4,306 youth-serving organizations in the 25 largest U.S. city commuting zones for the four-year period from 2009 through 2012. In 2008 and again in 2009, charitable giving in the U.S. did not increase—the longest such slow-down in charitable giving in the past 42 years. The time period we analyzed therefore captures the ability of a city’s youth-serving nonprofits to rebound from hard fiscal times and can also be seen as a sound proxy indicator of a city’s aggregate capacity for growth in these services.

Three findings emerged from our analysis when controlling for population size:

  • Per capita investment in youth-serving nonprofits is linked to upward economic mobility. (Pearson R=.766 P-Value < .00001)
  • High growth of youth-serving nonprofits—across a spectrum of budget sizes—is strongly linked to upward economic mobility. (Pearson R=.948 P-Value < .00001)
  • The presence of small but growing youth-serving nonprofits is especially strongly linked with a city’s upward economic mobility. (Pearson R=.987 P-Value < .00001)

Download the Brief 

Investment in Youth-serving Organizations Is Linked to Economic Mobility in Cities over Generations: What Mayors Can Do to Capitalize

Download the Data

  • Summary Table by Commuting Zone Excel | CSV

For technical questions or questions about the Youth in Cities Data Project email us at