*Time* magazine adaptation from *The Complacent Class*

by on February 23, 2017 at 6:06 am in Current Affairs, Economics, Travel | Permalink

Here is one paragraph:

Here is this change in a single number: The interstate migration rate has fallen 51 percent below its 1948–1971 average, and that number has been falling steadily since the mid-1980s. Or, if we look at the rate of moving between counties within a state, it fell 31 percent. The rate of moving within a county fell 38 percent. Those are pretty steep drops for a country that has not changed its fundamental economic or political systems. You might think that information technology (IT) would make it easier to find a job on the other side of the country, and maybe it has, but that has not been the dominant effect. If anything, Americans have used the dynamism of IT to help ourselves stay put, not to move around.

Here is the rest of the piece.  It is not mainly about age demographics, and we have in fact outsourced much of our geographic mobility to immigrants.

1 steveslr February 23, 2017 at 6:27 am

There are a few things going on.

First, two income families make it harder to relocate because one spouse gets a better job.

Second, homesickness is a genuine human emotion. 19th Century Americans relocated a lot, but they at least publicly recognized that it is hard. 20th Century Americans were told to suck it up and relocate for the Army or IBM or Walmart. After awhile people got tired of being far away from their friends and family. Historian Susan J. Matt’s 2011 book “Homesickness: An American History” is essential reading:


Third, immigration makes the economics of moving less appealing. There wasn’t much immigration in 1948-1971 so Americans could get a decent premium to move to economically hot areas like California. Today, of course, the standard of living in California (median income minus cost of living) is lower than in almost any other state except for Hawaii.

2 steveslr February 23, 2017 at 6:30 am

Here’s my 2006 article explaining opportunity cost:

Imagine you are an American blue-collar worker in Cleveland, making $10 per hour. You know the local economy is stagnant, so you’re thinking about relocating to fast-growing Las Vegas. But your mom would miss you; and you’re not a teenager anymore so you don’t make new friends as fast as you once did; and you really like the wooded Ohio countryside you grew up around and the fall colors and the deer hunting; and there’s this girl that maybe you could get serious about, but her whole family is in Cleveland and she’d never leave.

So, you decide, you’ll leave home behind if you can make 50 percent more in Las Vegas, adjusted for cost of living. That seems fair.

But, then you look through the Las Vegas want ads and discover you’d be lucky to make 10 or 20 percent more because the town is full of illegal aliens. They’re moving from another country, so it`s not much skin off their nose to move to Las Vegas rather than some place slower-growing.

Well, forget that, you say. I’ll stay in Cleveland.

Unfortunately, too many economists forget that too.


3 Vivian Darkbloom February 23, 2017 at 7:05 am

A significant part of the opportunity cost has to do with housing. Consider California, the most populous state. Proposition 13 makes the opportunity cost of moving much higher because the freeze on property taxes at 1975 values does not apply when a home is sold (and another one purchased). This likely explains some of the decrease in intra-county mobility (and the overall decrease). Do other states have similar rules? I’m not for higher taxes, but the formula seems to be flawed.

California used to be the big inter-state migration magnet. Now it is more an international magnet. First, that kid from Cleveland probably can’t afford the downpayment on a home there. Second, and perhaps more importantly, California is not otherwise as attractive a place as it was 50-60 years ago. Those who favour open immigration and no zoning in order to open up now popular places to the “masses” tend to forget that in doing so one destroys the very thing that made it attractive in the first place. Killing the one you love, as Oscar Wilde would say (“The Ballad of Reading Gaol”). All the overrun tourist traps in the world were once nice places. There is a price to pay for trying to make everything accessible to everyone.

Finally, I think the selected dates have skewed the percentages somewhat and the reason, again, is housing. From 2007 a lot of people in Cleveland and elsewhere who would otherwise have moved could not do so, even if they wanted to, because their house was underwater.

4 Chappy February 23, 2017 at 11:23 am

Not saying this is an unfair assessment, but I think your argument breaks down pretty badly for, say Florida and Arizona. These are high net migration states. My guess is retirement is king here due to weather and state income tax structure. I wouldn’t doubt this brings in younger people, including immigrants to provide services for the retirees.

I’d also add that I always find the “cost of living is so high because so many people live there” to be a pretty unconvincing argument. Always sounds like an economic Yogi Berraism to me.

5 msgkings February 23, 2017 at 12:55 pm

Well said.

6 Cooper February 23, 2017 at 2:49 pm

The data seem to suggest that moving is lesson common now than it was in the past across the board, including every major county and age group.


7 Axa February 23, 2017 at 6:35 am

Homesickness may explain the decision of that specific teacher, but it’s not a widespread retiree behavior observable on migration data. I doubt all those Boomers in retirement moving to Nevada, Florida, Arizona or Baja were born there. Or, are younger generation more homesick than Boomers?

8 steveslr February 23, 2017 at 9:20 pm

My vague impression is that moving in retirement is less common than in the past. For example, the 100-year-old lady who lives across the street from me has been there, I believe, since the house was built in 1951.

One reason is that before air conditioning the population used to be concentrated in the northeastern quarter of the country, which is a good place to slip on ice and break your hip when you are elderly. Now more people live their whole lives in milder locations so there is less impetus to move when you get old.

9 Axa February 24, 2017 at 6:04 am

I did not find more recent stats, anyway look at figure 4 “Net Migration Rates for the Population 65 Years and Over: 1995 to 2000” https://www.census.gov/prod/2003pubs/censr-10.pdf

The 65+ population does not seem homesick of Nebraska or Iowa. Have retirees preferences changed in a significant way the last 20 years?

10 Troll me February 23, 2017 at 9:30 am

Assuming that California living itself has zero premium (beaches, decent weather, etc.), the standard of living in California is lower.

11 spencer February 23, 2017 at 11:38 am

The BEA publishes data on real per capita income by state.

The latest data has California at 94% of the national average. The range is from 139% for North Dakota to 84% of the national average for Utah. This excludes D.C. at 145% because that data is distorted. California’s rank is 33 while Hawaii is 46 with where it is 87% of the national average. Sorry the percent of national income and ranks are my calculations so I can not give you a link.

What made you thinks California had such low income?

12 JWatts February 23, 2017 at 11:50 am

California has the highest PP adjusted poverty rate in the nation according to the US Census Bureau.

“As averaged from 2013 to 2015, California had America’s 17th-highest poverty rate, 15 percent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. But, by a newer, more comprehensive Census accounting, California’s true poverty rate is an eye-popping 20.6 percent—the highest in the nation”


“TRUE: California has the nation’s highest poverty rate, when factoring in cost-of-living”

13 Cooper February 23, 2017 at 3:11 pm

California has extreme levels of inequality.

To pick a cliche example, look at the entertainment industry in Los Angeles. Thousands of aspiring actors move to Hollywood every year in the hopes of becoming a big star. The median actor in the US earns $19/hour which is less than the median wage for all workers. The top actors earn millions. The overwhelming majority of “actors” will spend a few years waiting tables before giving up and moving back to Ohio.

High payout, low probability of success –> unequal outcomes but lots of willing participants because the payout is so enticing.

This formula plays out across several prominent sectors in the California economy. Being an IT specialist in Texas might provide a higher median living standard than being a startup worker in Silicon Valley but there’s also a slight chance that your startup could become the next Google. People are willing to accept a lower standard of living in exchange for one of those lottery tickets.

14 steveslr February 23, 2017 at 9:22 pm

Here’s a 2005 calculation of standard of living based on ACCRA data intended for modeling the cost of living, including mortgage, for mid-level managers moved by their corporations:


15 Todd K February 23, 2017 at 7:02 am

Well this is a happy coincidence. In the same issue of TIME, nicotinamide riboside (NR) and Elysium get a several paragraph write-up, sadly, only a third as long as Tyler’s most excellent essay.

” THE DEBATE: Basis contains two main ingredients: nicotinamide riboside (NR) and pterostilbene, both of which have been shown in animal studies to fight aging at the cellular level. NR creates NAD+, which is believed to spur cell rejuvenation but which declines naturally in animals as they age. In a trial of 120 healthy people from ages 60 to 80, Guarente found that people taking Basis increased their NAD+ levels by 40%. “We are trying to be rigorously based on science,” he says. … … ….
The company has seven Nobel Prize–winning scientists on its advisory board, a fact that has also raised some eyebrows. Flier cautions that the company’s association with lauded researchers cannot replace the science required to prove that the supplements combat aging and are safe to use.” [[NR has been shown to be safe up to 1000 mg a day and Elysium has sent or is sending detailed results of its 120 person trial to a science journal ]]

So more low hanging fruit on the horizon, this time though for something admittedly trivial like improved health for those over 40. Hardly at the jet pack level of innovation.

16 Axa February 23, 2017 at 7:18 am

Marvelous cherry-picking “Many molecules that have some apparent benefits in mice or other organisms have no benefit when studied in humans.” http://time.com/4672962/silicon-valley-longer-life/?iid=sr-link10

Also, you’re more eager to promote Elysium Health than Elysium Health. Their last post was done a year ago. Perhaps they don’t have anything interesting to share with the public. @Todd do you know more about Elysium that the guys working there? https://www.elysiumhealth.com/blog

17 Todd K February 23, 2017 at 8:05 am

If you reread what I selected, the Harvard skeptic is included. That isn’t cherry picking but just keeping it short because this post is about Tyler’s column not NR. I just thought was pretty funny both NR/ anti-aging article and his column are together on TIME’s homepage.

Elysium’s last post was last December when they released the first part of the study. There you will find that NR with pterostilbine at a double dose (500 mg of NR) raised NAD+ levels 90% in that group of thirty, which is not mentioned in the article. Elysium summarizes that in another place as well. They just don’t maintain the old blog now.

The skeptic scientist from Harvard, Jeffrey Flier, was wrong to say that NR hasn’t been tested for safety and his quote about molecules that are beneficial in mice but not humans is of course true yet so many of those are cancer drugs which has unique problems that a supplement like NR or pterostilbine wouldn’t have.

I started taking 125 mg then 250 mg of NR a day from HPN, while a scientist friend takes another brand but all NR comes from Chromadex which owns the processing patents. Elysium is price competitive though, and having seven Nobel Prize laureates in Medicine or Physiology does open eyes as the article states. Elysium has said that it would post all trial results, positive or negative, on its website. That they are running trials at all is commendable. The humble supplement NR (a derivative of vitamin B3) has the potential to make statins, beta blockers, ambien sleeping pills and viagra, among other drugs, obsolete for a large segment of the older population and so obviously interesting to watch.

18 JWatts February 23, 2017 at 9:42 am

“I started taking 125 mg then 250 mg of NR a day from HPN”

What brand do you take?

19 Todd K February 23, 2017 at 11:04 am

HPN is the brand I take off of Amazon. I know that some scientists on one NR forum take HPN (or others) because they would rather buy pterostilbine (blueberry compound) separately if at all. One leading NR researcher doubts pterostilbine is helpful but there are reasons to think he is wrong.

NR at just 125 mg has been shown to raise NAD+ levels 30% but that was just a one day trial. What I notice is deeper sleep, alertness when I awake and have vivid dreams again. One 35 year old said on Quora that he was taking Elysium but didn’t notice any changes except his coworkers started to comment on how good his skin looked. A woman then replied that some would kill for better skin. One friend who was already at a normal weight but went on a diet to lose 8% of her weight a few years ago said that she was starving so stopped. But when she took just 125 mg of Elysium Basis her weight gradually went down to the previous “starvation weight” but no longer hungry. (That could be due to the pterostilbine since similar to resveratrol.) A 60 year scientist who knows optics well swears his vision has improved and that his age spots have significantly faded.

It will be interesting to see what Elysium and others do with marketing if the 500 mg of NR showing a 90% boost in NAD+ are associated with much better blood pressure, cholesterol, glucose, and stamina results that are being published compared with the recommended 250mg dose since that dose would raise the price to $80 to $100 a month depending on if a one year or six month subscription. Oh, and Chromodex is suing Elysium for not paying for a previous order. Never a dull moment in the health pill world!

20 PhilippeO February 23, 2017 at 7:08 am

What about family structure change ? perhaps if you have many brothers you would be more willing to move because your younger brother would take care of parents ? perhaps if you have elder brother in Cal you would be more willing to move to Cal ? perhaps parent with one children would be more reluctant to encourage him to go out of state college ?

21 Troll me February 23, 2017 at 9:33 am

I thought the main dynamic in that respect was less concern abotu taking care of parents period. Ship them off to the old folks home once they can’t take care of themselves. (Whether this is a good thing is at times debated …)

The question, then, would be more of income than location, which pushes more towards moving for money than to stay at home.

Then again, costs of care have risen much faster than inflation … which would act contrary to the original effect for many imaginable situations.

22 commentariette February 23, 2017 at 7:17 am

It’s not about lack of dynamism – it’s about two-career families becoming the norm.

Even up to the 80’s, most married women didn’t work outside the home at all and those who did worked part time and earned much less than their spouses. So family could move to take advantage of a better opportunity for the husband, without much impacting the family finances (the wife earned little or nothing).

Women have acheived substantially more equality in the workforce (and I’m strongly in favor), but reduced mobility is a downside… It’s extremely hard for two-job couples with roughly equal pay to move, because they both need to find jobs at the destination in order to maintain their net income: If the man loses his job, the family income is reduced ~50%. But if he moves to another city to get a new job, the woman has to give up her job and the family income is still reduced ~50%, plus the financial and personal costs of moving (so it’s not even probabilistically break even). If the family splits up, their income is back to 100%, but their living expenses have doubled.

But you don’t need a psychological model of increased risk-aversion — for most couples moving really is much riskier than it was 20-30 years ago. Immigrants are more often single, or are not accompanied by their spouse, or their spouse doesn’t have a work permit (or possibly language skills, etc). For them, the risk of moving remains low.

Divorce and blended families (also increasing over that time) make problems of keeping the family together (i.e. children near both biological parents, which most parents want) even more complicated — there more more adults and more jobs involved and (often) less cooperative attitude..

Smaller families (also increasing over that time) probably also have an effect. If there are three or four or more siblings, one might have a good job living near aging parents, leaving the others free to move out of the area. An only child would not be so free, or would have to take the cost of paying for services for their parents into account when considering a move.

23 Troll me February 23, 2017 at 9:37 am

A good case for a three-day weekend perhaps?

If you’re married with kids but se ea new job opportunity, maybe you could manage with a few long weekends a month with the family. But two days? The travel is just too long for most distances. At least, it’s much more manageable while the second person looks for something that’s worth their while in the new area or something …

24 Doc at the Radar Station February 23, 2017 at 7:17 am

>The rate of moving within a county fell 38 percent.

I think you can chalk that up to increased commuting distances. There are people where I work that commute from *six* different counties. A better metric would be to compare Combined Statistical Areas to other CSA’s and look at the rates of moving there.

25 Bill February 23, 2017 at 8:25 am

+1 No one uses counties as a measure.

26 Bill February 23, 2017 at 12:46 pm

To be clear, they would most likely us Standard Metropolitan Statistical Areas. SMSAs

27 dearieme February 23, 2017 at 7:37 am

I’m astonished to learn that Time still exists. Is it still as feeble as it was in the sixties?

28 Troll me February 23, 2017 at 9:42 am

Indeed. There are some US media outlets which are not worth singling out for special disparagement.

Fox … some comparatively pro-radicalization ones among those who call themselves “right” but really are just looking for any excuse to keep different people out … any others?

29 DevOps Dad February 23, 2017 at 10:07 am

In the 1960s Time magazine served its niche as a popular quick read of the past week’s newsworthy events and unfortunately it became more politically progressive during the 1980s. Today the editors have become famous for their ‘Fake News’ covers from our last election.


30 Jan February 23, 2017 at 1:23 pm

O my god, how old are you?

31 rayward February 23, 2017 at 7:46 am

Of course, a major reason people haven’t moved during the past ten years is due to the financial crisis and great recession: they couldn’t move because they couldn’t sell their houses. Florida, in particular, was affected. With the real estate market booming again in many places, I would expect the data for moving to return to the historical trend. As for where they are moving, Cowen and Thiel said (in their conversation) that inward looking (that’s their term) states are likely to experience the best economic performance, and identified Texas and California as two inward looking states with high levels of economic growth. Well, over the past 5-6 years Texas and California are the fastest growing states in absolute terms; North Dakota is the fastest growing by percentage, but the base is small. https://en.wikipedia.orgwikiList_of_U.S._states_by_population_growth_rate
Florida is right up there in terms of absolute population growth, but a tour around the state won’t impress, as Florida mostly attracts retirees and low-skilled service workers (likewise Texas attracts many low-skilled service workers). Besides not moving, Cowen also laments the decline in business start-ups as reflecting a less dynamic population. I would point out that business start-ups have mostly been in retail, a sector that has languished as Amazon and similar online retailers have come to dominate – even Sears and other large retailers have languished. Again, a tour around Florida will reveal hundreds of retail shopping centers with few or no tenants. Anyone starting a retail business today needs her head examined. I’m not from Michigan, but I am familiar with the practice of the car companies to outsource, many highly successful start-ups benefiting from that practice. It’s not surprising that start-ups in Michigan and the other car states have declined as car production (as well as production in other industries) has moved. But to Cowen’s delight, the low probability of success hasn’t discouraged restaurant start-ups. Indeed, many of the former workers in manufacturing have taken their nest eggs, moved south, and opened or bought restaurants. At least we will be well-fed. One reader at MR once commented that Cowen remains at GMU because of the variety and quality of restaurants in the DC area. I’ve noticed that Charleston’s population has grown rapidly as the quantity, variety, and quality of the restaurants in the area has risen. Maybe if quality restaurants were more geographically dispersed Americans would start moving again.

32 Bill February 23, 2017 at 8:50 am

Yep. A better measure of movement would take into account differentials in unemployment rates in different parts of the country. If unemployment is universally high in most states, or localities, there is little point in moving.

33 Behemot February 23, 2017 at 8:17 am

I remember that in a post about Marxism and elsewhere, Cowen explicitly recognized how lucky he is to be a tenured professor.

As such, I don’t think Tyler will mind if I point out the the irony of someone who has spent the vast majority of his life in the region where he hails from (even teaching at the undergrad where he got his first degree!) working in a tenure track/tenured position lamenting the decline of labour mobility and the declining business formation rate…

34 dearieme February 23, 2017 at 9:33 am

“lamenting … the declining business formation rate”: if you count each of his books as a business he’s doing rather well at business formation.

35 Troll me February 23, 2017 at 9:55 am

There seem to be a handful of individuals with the ability to spot from a thousand miles away any possibility to contort the facts of tenure to negatively portray certain individuals, and, I believe, that profession in general.

Wouldn’t it be a lot easier to control all the academics if they could all just be fired for little or no reason? Line up all the bad side of tenure, and then ignore all other benefits, and you’re miles ahead already.

36 prior_test2 February 23, 2017 at 10:07 am

‘individuals with the ability to spot from a thousand miles away any possibility to contort the facts of tenure to negatively portray certain individuals’

Well, pointing out the hypocrisy someone of being libertarian and yet accepting a position paid by taxpayers with essentially guaranteed lifetime employment is not quite the same thing as attacking tenure.

Prof. Cowen, as all disloyal readers know, is a very flexible man when it comes to such things. However, whether the charge is irony or hypocrisy, those pointing out such behavior are not, in any sense, advocating for the abolishing tenure. It is just worth noting that neither Prof. Cowen nor Prof. Tabarrok are advocating it either, even as they point out the numerous problems that could be solved simply by being able to fire those covered currently by something as distinctly outrageous as a union contract.

37 Pshrnk February 23, 2017 at 12:21 pm

As long as GMU and Professor Cowen initially freely entered into an agreement about his working conditions; what is your problem with that?

38 prior_test2 February 23, 2017 at 2:41 pm

Well, at the time that the Commonwealth of Virginia and Prof. Cowen entered his contract for guaranteed life time employment, I was also a taxpayer in the Commonwealth of Virginia. To that extent, my interest as a taxpayer is simply being obscured by using ‘GMU.’

But apart from that, what aspect of the term ‘hypocrisy’ is so difficult to understand? This web site, with its devotion to the idea that no one should count on the government to supply their income, is run by two people who count on government to supply their income.

39 Behemot February 23, 2017 at 10:22 am

For the life of me I can’t see where I am “trying to negatively portray certain individuals” or the “profession in general.” Nor am I focusing solely on tenure, and I am certainly not doing a holistic assessment of the advantages or disadvantages of tenure – where did you see that in my post?

I am just pointing out the irony, something that has not escaped Tyler himself.

40 Troll me February 23, 2017 at 5:30 pm

OK. But there are several people who regularly participate here who specifically try to use the fact of tenure to tarnish individuals who have obtained it.

41 psmith February 23, 2017 at 1:39 pm

“Wouldn’t it be a lot easier to control all the academics if they could all just be fired for little or no reason?”
Sure would!

“Line up all the bad side of tenure, and then ignore all other benefits,”
What do you mean, other benefits? You haven’t enumerated one benefit yet….

42 Troll me February 24, 2017 at 11:02 pm

Like, if you can’t fire someone, he can tell the president he’s wrong to the tune of a trillion dollars and not worry about losing his job.

Alternatively stated, anti-Stalnist protections come part and parcel with academic tenure.

43 Becky Hargrove February 23, 2017 at 8:45 am

“Those are pretty steep drops for a country that has not changed its fundamental economic or political systems.”

Extensive pay for extensive knowledge investment (as opposed to flexible/mobile skills) is a fundamental economic change.

44 mulp February 23, 2017 at 11:35 am

Except the political economic policy has changed drastically between pre 70s and post 70s.

Before the 70s, employees were unique assets to invest in and to pay well to perform for businesses, including paying to relocate.

Post 70s, workers are liabilities to which costs must be cut, and that starts by treating them as commodities. Fire the worker in Cleveland with ten years engineering. Try to hire an engineer with ten years experience in Atlanta and batch about the failure of government, schools, lazy Americans while trying to fill the job with an Indian or German contract worker bogged down in visa paperwork.

My employer paid me to move in 1975, 76, 77, 80, 81. Almost all my coworkers in Peoria in 1977 had been paid to move to Peoria from other offices, half from Chicago, but also Indiana, Pennsylvania, Ohio. The result was lots of company culture and access to resources, people, so we could support customers with old and yet to be announced products.

By the 90s, MBAs were firing and hiring warm bodies and customers felt abandoned by the company that had served them well with employees who placed customer success first. Loyal customers stopped being loyal and blacklisted the company for future business.

But hey, paying to move experienced employees was just too costly. And tax policy treated moving expenses as a tax dodge to be eliminated to enable lower tax rates.

45 Nick February 23, 2017 at 8:51 am

First thing I thought was that the rising importance of two-income families surely has a role to play here; I see others have made the same point.

46 Ted Craig February 23, 2017 at 9:09 am

So much has changed and yet Tyler says nothing has changed.
Airfare is cheaper, so companies can dispatch employees to different parts of the country as needed. It’s common for GM to send staff to a plant in Kansas City for a week and then later in the month send them to Mexico for two.
And large entities have changed the way they operate, as well. Again, using the example of GM, the company has operations in half as many states as it used to. Most of that consolidation started in the mid-80s. The same is true with the military and other large entities that need people physically present for their operations.
So there is less movement out of need and perhaps less movement out of want. As somebody pointed out the other day, what’s the point of moving if every place is the same. Every city today has its Walmart and its Little Brooklyn.

47 Ted Craig February 23, 2017 at 9:14 am

One other thought. The risk of leaving a paternal organization is much lower today. In the 1950s, if you worked as a middle manager at the GM plant in Michigan and the boss said you have to move to Framingham, Mass., you moved. People still do that today, but they also are more likely to quit because their wife has a good job and both sets of grandparents are still alive.

48 Pshrnk February 23, 2017 at 12:24 pm

Without pensions to protect fewer people have reason to move in order to stay with the same company.

49 Shane M February 23, 2017 at 3:53 pm

Fewer pensions is good point. If anything you might want to leave a company quickly now to lock in your pension instead of staying longer and risk the company abolish it or reduce it drastically.

50 derek February 23, 2017 at 10:20 am

Canada has people commuting from New Brunswick for work in the oil patch of Alberta.

Housing is a very large issue. A skilled tradesman from New Brunswick who owns his home would need a sizeable mortgage if he moved to Alberta.

51 JWatts February 23, 2017 at 9:36 am

“and we have in fact outsourced much of our geographic mobility to immigrants.”

Wouldn’t immigrants moving into an area tend to fill the low skill jobs, lower the wages and thus depress the likelihood of low skilled Americans moving into the same area?

52 Turkey Vulture February 23, 2017 at 10:33 am


53 mulp February 23, 2017 at 11:54 am

Immigrants fill the high skill jobs too.

An Indian engineer will relocate to California while the equally or better skilled engineer in Cleveland will not pay to relocate to California, and corporations no longer offer the relocation benefits common before the 70s. Before the 80s, the living cost differences were accounted for by various relocation cost payments to get people to move from Cleveland to california or the east coast.

Today, spending $40,000 to move for a job, selling a house, moving storage, house hunting, to take a job that might be eliminated in a year or three because the MBAs decide to change directions and shed all the costly liabilities. Where is the ROI?

For the Indian, getting into the US is worth the cost because getting a new h1b sponsor is easier than getting the first one.

54 JWatts February 23, 2017 at 2:21 pm

“Immigrants fill the high skill jobs too. …An Indian engineer will relocate to California while the equally or better skilled engineer in Cleveland will not pay to relocate to California.”

Yes, that’s a good point.

55 Stuart February 23, 2017 at 9:56 am

How much of the migration in the 1950s and 1960s is attributable to the rise of air conditioning? A lot of people realized A/C made the sun belt (particularly Florida) more appealing than dealing with frigid midwest and NE winters.

56 JK Brown February 23, 2017 at 12:50 pm

Don’t ignore the freedom provided by widespread automobile ownership. Prior to WWII, the populace was bottled up in cities due to transportation needs, but by 1950, they were breaking out of the urban ghettos.

“Similarly the American who has been humbled by poverty, or by his insignificance in the business order, or by his racial status, or by any other circumstance that might demean him in his own eyes, gains a sense of authority when he slides behind the wheel of an automobile and it leaps forward at his bidding, ready to take him wherever he may personally please.

“In 1950 the civilian labor force of the United States was estimated to number a little less than 59 million men and women; in the same year the number of drivers in the United States was estimated to be a little larger: 59,300,000.

“Never before in human history, perhaps, had any such proportion of the nationals of any land known the lifting of the spirit that the free exercise of power can bring.”

–‘The Big Change: America Transforms Itself 1900-1950’ (1952), Frederick Allen Lewis

57 sw February 23, 2017 at 11:21 am

(Over-generalization alert!) Places in the U.S. are increasingly similar to each other. Unless you want to move to North Dakota to work in energy, or to LA or NYC to pursue the arts, there’s not really that much difference between places to live in the U.S. People need a strong economic incentive to uproot, and inter-regional incentives are declining.

58 spencer February 23, 2017 at 11:50 am

I always thought that much of the domestic migration stemmed from internal migration as the fastest growing sections of the economy attracted workers from the weakest areas. In recent years the divergence in growth rates around the different geographical sectors has been muted relative to the historic differences. But areas with much stronger growth, like North Dakota, did pull in labor from other areas. Interestingly, as that boom collapsed those new immigrants apparently went back home as the labor force in North Dakota has actually fallen in recent years.

But the point that we have fewer area with a booming job market has to have reduced the demand pull aspect of domestic migration.

59 psmith February 23, 2017 at 11:57 am

Branching off what Stuart said about air conditioning (and Lyman Stone also posted about this recently), how much interstate migration was about new information? Increased rates of migration mid-century could partly be modeled as people learning that sunny places (that their ancestors hadn’t heard of or thought about, or that wouldn’t have been feasible for their ancestors to settle b/c of technological constraints) are nice to live. Migration has slowed because people already know that, and because climate preference is somewhat heritable.

60 JK Brown February 23, 2017 at 12:47 pm

“Those are pretty steep drops for a country that has not changed its fundamental economic or political systems. ”

Really? There is some argument that the interventionism hasn’t continued, but since 1971 with global competition and increased government overhead killing the robust growth needed to obfuscate it? True even in the late 1940s, economist Sumner Sclichter was calling it “government-guided enterprise”. That’s waxed and waned but, the march has been to state-strangled enterprise and the consequent decline in motivation of the population to even struggle.

“The Dictatorial, Anti-Democratic and Socialist Character of Interventionism

“Many advocates of interventionism are bewildered when one tells them that in recommending interventionism they themselves are fostering anti-democratic and dictatorial tendencies and the establishment of totalitarian socialism. They protest that they are sincere believers and opposed to tyranny and socialism. What they aim at is only the improvement of the conditions of the poor. They say that they are driven by considerations of social justice, and favour a fairer distribution of income precisely because they are intent upon preserving capitalism and its political corollary or superstructure, viz., democratic government.

“What these people fail to realize is that the various measures they suggest are not capable of bringing about the beneficial results aimed at. On the contrary they produce a state of affairs which from the point of view of their advocates is worse than the previous state which they were designed to alter. If the government, faced with this failure of its first intervention, is not prepared to undo its interference with the market and to return to a free economy, it must add to its first measure more and more regulations and restrictions. Proceeding step by step on this way it finally reaches a point in which all economic freedom of individuals has disappeared. Then socialism of the German pattern, the Zwangswirtschaft of the Nazis, emerges.”

von Mises, Ludwig (1947). Planned Chaos

61 B. Reynolds February 24, 2017 at 8:24 am

I still wonder how much of this decline is due to the fact that people already moved in decades past.

The migration from smaller towns to larger MSAs has already happened. The big migration from the rust belt to the sun belt has possibly leveled out.

Considering the cost of moving, if you’re going to move from Dallas, Atlanta, or Houston to somewhere else, there needs to be a darn good reason for it. It’s probably a better option to find another job in the MSA you already live in.

62 Jackson Layers February 24, 2017 at 12:29 pm

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