Do America’s poor move around enough?

Eric Chyn, from the University of Michigan, has an interesting job market paper on this topic., which suddenly is being debated again.  The title is “Moved to Opportunity: The Long-Run Effect of Public Housing Demolition on Labor Market Outcomes of Children.” Here is the abstract:

This paper provides new evidence on the effects of moving out of disadvantaged neighborhoods on the long-run economic outcomes of children. My empirical strategy is based on public housing demolitions in Chicago which forced households to relocate to private market housing using vouchers. Specifically, I compare adult outcomes of children displaced by demolition to their peers who lived in nearby public housing that was not demolished. Displaced children are 9 percent more likely to be employed and earn 16 percent more as adults. These results contrast with the Moving-to-Opportunity (MTO) relocation study, which detected effects only for children who were young when their families moved. To explore this discrepancy, this paper also examines a housing voucher lottery program (similar to MTO) conducted in Chicago. I find no measurable impact on labor market outcomes for children in households that won vouchers. The contrast between the lottery and demolition estimates remains even after re-weighting the demolition sample to adjust for differences in observed characteristics. Overall, this evidence suggests lottery volunteers are negatively selected on the magnitude of their children’s gains from relocation. This implies that moving from disadvantaged neighborhoods may have substantially larger impact on children than what is suggested by results from voucher experiments where parents elect to participate.

Justin Fox argues that moving is hard, but basically more of the poor should move, at least using standard economic metrics for family well-being.  Results from the Katrina natural experiment indicate the same.  Ultimately we wish to protect people, not places per se.


We could create full employment for the poor by making them carry TCP/IP packets around by hand, for free. This way they would not only have jobs, but also move around a lot. :)

"Never underestimate the bandwidth of a station wagon full of tapes hurtling down the highway."


I may have read it here on MR, but it's also how Netflix populates its data centers.

This looks consistent with Sarvimäki et al's paper on forced resettlement in Finland during WW2:

Habit Formation and the Misallocation of Labor: Evidence from Forced Migrations
We examine the impacts of resettling 11% of the Finnish population after WWII. Farmers were given land and assistance to continue farming in areas resembling the origin regions. Nevertheless, a quarter of a century later, they were 10–16 percentage points more likely to hold a non-agricultural job and earned 11–28% more than plausible control groups.

@Jorgen: Thanks for posting that paper link! I had not seen this before.

@Eric: You're welcome!

Interesting that the bottom line question is always, "If the jobs move, why doesn't labor move?" instead of,

"If market economics starts to fail, why don't economists jump into the ocean?"

And the reason is because, "ultimately we want to protect people, not place per se"?

What?! Have you lost your ecological mind?

I don't understand what substantive point you're trying to make here. Could you clarify?

Probably not.

Isn't this more a case of growing up in a concentration of poverty leading to its normalization than of living in public housing per se being a problem? I mean, most people in Vienna live in public housing, and they seem to be doing pretty well. Why not just construct public housing in such a way as to avoid concentrations of poverty?

Because iin Chicago at least, public housing was not build to help the poor but to provide enough housing in Black neighborhoods to keep white neighborhoods white

Evidence please?

Do you really need evidence on this one? Whites simply dont want black ppl around... And i can not really blame them... I have grown up in a neighbourhood with a lot of black people (though not in the US) and believe me when I say... it was not so nice, though partly because the white people who lived there were also quite trashy...

"Do you really need evidence on this one?"

Yes. Evidence for everything, please. How much "obvious" stuff turns out to be untrue?

I have to call BS on this. The idea of Whites ostracizing Blacks by the use of "inner city" ghettos located a stone's throw away from Universities, financial centers and other important infrastructure etc (at least compared to suburbs), is ludicrous. The famous Cabrini Green in Chicago is an example. Whites started leaving the cities for aspirational consumption (detached house, white picket fence), but they started fleeing the cities when neighborhoods started degrading because of too many Blacks moving in on their own or because of public housing. There would have always been a large number of Whites who wanted to live in the cities, as recent gentrification shows. And, now, the brilliant idea is that Blacks should move to the suburbs, where the opportunities are (!!!) and away from the inner cities. That's ass backwards, but will succeed in freeing up valuable real estate for redevelopment. Which is ultimately what it comes down to. Throwing minorities around like hot potatoes without appearing to be racist.

The current strategy among urban elites (e.g., Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel) seems to be that inner city blacks should move to decaying suburbs or small towns where their Section 8 vouchers would go further, while their old slum neighborhoods conveniently close to down are converted into hipster utopias.

Steve, that actually sounds logical. Don't make me like Rahm!

But those hipster utopias created by gentrication are populated by a more diverse population than the poor people displaced. This is not whites replacing blacks or browns, but whites and blacks and browns and Asians moving in and the blacks and browns moving out.

Which proves the opposite of what many economists argue.

This post by Tyler is just one of many arguing that if the poor move into wealthier neighborhoods they will get more jobs that pay more. So gentrication is when the neighborhoods which are overwhelmingly poor become rich neighborhoods, which means the poor should get more jobs that pay more without moving.

You are arguing that is false. That the poor are made worse off.

Also, a claim is made that zoning prohibits building new housing which harms the poor, except gentrication is basically high density areas seeing lots and lots of building to create housing that brings in new residents.

Is the argument that it's zoning laws that dictate high middle and high income people must have 2000 plus square feet of living space while poor people can't live in greater than 400 square feet? If zoning in cities prevents constructing housing, how does gentrification occur?

I think it was generally far more organic than that. Whites moved to the suburbs, created zoning laws which kept out the poor (mostly blacks), and inner city prices tumbled. I don't doubt that the perspective you suggest was slightly part of the story for some advocates of public housing projects, but I don't think it is correct to portray it as the main part of what was going on.

More realistically, housing projects went where land was cheap and where neighbours were not politically influential enough to keep them out. I think we're learning the lesson that it's better to distribute social housing more evenly, so as to not concentrate dysfunction all in the same place, which makes it virtually impossible to claw your way out, partly due to having too many bad models (and few good ones), negative peer effects, and the lack of social networks which provide access to opportunity.

There is a Coasean solution to poor people occupying valuable land. It's happening.

But there are studies on poor people who are moved to nicer places and they show little impact, right? We don't actually know that these people moved to nicer neighborhoods. Maybe it's better to move to where jobs are. I don't know, hard to interpret.

I think one theory on why MTO had little effect is that the high-school aged kids retained their peer networks from their old neighborhood. So one explanation for why the kids in this study benefited from moving is that their peer networks were disintegrated (ie everyone in their housing project had to move elsewhere, since it was demolished), and thus they would have to make new friends in their new, "better" neighborhoods.

er... I see now that this does not address your question about whether or not the neighborhoods were nicer.

Of course, this is the academic version of David French's U-Haul advice to the poor and defense of Kevin Williamson's screed against the poor in the National Review.

An intellectually curious response would be to want to understand better why people don't choose to move, not just to assume they should. You allude to this with your "standard economic metrics". I think either people at all economic levels overvalue their current situations in their current neighborhoods, or popular economic analysis undervalues it. Either way, I would want to know why. I'm sure there's a literature on this that I don't know well enough to link to.

Or to understand better why people should be REQUIRED to move, which is going to be the question of the future.

Yeah, this is spot on

this suggests to me that "standard economic metrics" probably aren't accurately accounting for the social costs of moving from somewhere you know lots of people and know how to navigate local customs to somewhere you don't know anyone, and don't know how to navigate local customs


couple of thoughts on this

1) I wonder how much our ideas of this are colored by being Americans, the idea of moving from Europe (or elsewhere) to America in search of economic opportunity seems prominent in our national consciousness, while I don't want to diminish how big a decision that was for the people who did that, the set of calculations you make now are different than the set of calculations you made then

2) Most of the economic movement that happens now, happens in ways that smooth over the transitions in doing so, the big one is going to college, (its a big adjustment for you, but its also a big adjustment for everyone else there),

3) these things are obviously smoothed out significant by have some money to cover significant transaction costs around uprooting your life, and having good information about what your new life might look like, a lot of the head scratching over "why don't they just move somewhere better?" seems to circle around groups that don't have spare cash to cover transactions cost, or good information about what life might be like in a new location

"2) Most of the economic movement that happens now, happens in ways that smooth over the transitions in doing so, the big one is going to college, (its a big adjustment for you, but its also a big adjustment for everyone else there),"

I wonder how much of the economic improvement business school brings its graduates is just due to the fact that they often move on graduation, and are therefore willing to consider jobs in different places. And thereby escape local maxima.

Well, the answer to the question of why the poor don't move to better places is the same as the answer to why you don't chose to move to Mars, the Moon, to London, to Paris, or why you don't chose to buy a Tesla Model X fully loaded or buy a Lamborghini or 100 classic cars.

After all, if you chose to do those things you would become a billionaire like Elon Musk or a very rich retired Late Show host.

You chose to spend like the very rich and powerful and that causes you to become very rich and powerful.


Surely you aren't going to argue you need money before you get the jobs that give you money by spending lots of money you don't have?

Leave friends behind? And perhaps family who lives just nearby? And never mind that your favourite fried chicken joint, burrito house or drinking station will for practical purposes be a matter of history if you live 10 miles away. Also, you need to get a better job FIRST so you can afford rent elsewhere, and probably that more highly paid job is a long commute from the projects (unless in an early stage of gentrification where rent is still cheap, but higher quality jobs are starting to abound nearby).

We are creatures of habit. Change is hard, even when for the better.

Is there a better life waiting for the poor in Texas, Florida, or Arizona? Not according to George Packer in his book, The Unwinding. Which is more likely: a better life in Texas, Florida, or Arizona or a return (from China, etc.) of manufacturing jobs to the industrial regions of the northeast and mid-west? If global warming causes the sea levels to rise, would the economically depressed regions today become the economically prosperous regions tomorrow? And if so, wouldn't it be helpful if all those poor and uneducated folks in those regions moved away on their own to make room for the affluent and educated. The U-Haul advice to today's poor reminds me of the "voluntary" resettlement of native Americans in the 19th century.

Texas, Florida, and Arizona are full of Latin American immigrants doing the jobs that American poor people could do, and doing them cheaper and perhaps better. Justin Fox's article is common in that he totally misses the role of immigration in dissuading Americans from moving to better job markets: the immigrants tend to get there first. (The recent North Dakota energy boom was an unusual exception, perhaps because of the severe climate and the lack of Hispanic networks in that part of the country, also perhaps the oil/gas industry seems to have a tradition of paying decently for labor.)

Of course people who cross borders for economic reasons will go where the jobs are, and will already have overcome all the causes of resistance to change faced by those who are ... too slow to react to these opportunities according to the interpretation you seem to put forward.

For lower end jobs, you basically never get hired in advance of moving. You have to go there first and hope for the best. In a strong job market, it's a good gamble. Not so in a weak job market - your network is a thousand miles away, and if you don't find work quick you might be on the streets in short order.

Leaving a disadvantaged neighborhood ought to improve outcomes. That is how it became disadvantaged in the first place. Richer people and businesses relocated long ago - gutting the tax base. School districts, law enforcement, fire fighting services, and other public goods are underfunded. This flight to the suburbs is subsidized by governments with lower marginal tax rates and tax deductions. Guess who has a harder time escaping? Poor people.

The now demolished Cabrini-Green housing project just blocks inland from Chicago's Gold Coast was disadvantaged mostly in the sense that it was full of Cabrini-Green residents. But that was a big disadvantage.

In general, the poor habe a hard time to leave non-demolishing slums.

Demolished slums that are undervalued land property are the exception, not the norm to Ibnyamin's statement.

We call the process of demolishing slums and rebuild as gentrification. NYG neighborhoods are not safe as gentrified neighborhoods.

A lot of inner city slums are potentially worth a fortune. That's what "gentrification" is about.

It still required some suck cost waiting for eminent domain.

Indeed. The political costs of massive gentrification are immense. Tearing down Cabrini Green was actively talked about in the later 1980s and the last high-rise was torn down in 2011.

Some of Obama's inner circle of friends and personal advisers -- Valerie Jarrett, Marty Nesbitt -- were in the business of providing black faces for real estate interests gentrifying Chicago by clearing out poor blacks.

People does move. Look at Nevada, only 25% of 25+ years old population is born in Nevada.

So, poor people that don't move is just a fraction of total poor people because some of them move to greener pastures. The question is "why some poor move and others don't?"

I wrote about moving to Las Vegas in 2006 when Vegas was booming (I guess it's booming again now):

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. They can't—or won't—put themselves in other people's shoes and see how the world really works.

That doesn't seem to hurt them professionally. But it can hurt America.

I understand, in my family both cultural extremes exist. The situation where some will never leave the grand parents hometown and the situation where my parents moved 1000 Km away to a booming oil town. Today, I moved with my wife 9000 Km away from our families.

Perhaps the difference is there, the ideas parents tell you when you're young. A happy life is more important than being attached to some place. You can't take as granted a good relationship with brothers, cousins or the guys from high-school because people change, A LOT. Just because you were inseparable at 10 years old, you can't be sure your cousin won't stab you in the back 30 years later. It's also possible to overestimate the value of family relationships.

But, in a reply below you mentioned a really good point. Low class males are terrified of leaving the neighborhood / town and the macho attitude that allowed to survive in violent environments is just ridicule in work environments or more affluent places.

"On yer bike" was the popular summary of the attitude of Mrs Thatcher's government to the young unemployed who wouldn't bestir themselves to move around to find work.

Attitudes seem to vary across different parts of the country: rural Scots expect to have to move to find work; armies of Londoners seem to think it an affront to the natural order that anyone would expect them to move elsewhere for work.

Especially when the whole world is moving to London for work.

Indeed, in 2011 the rioters of Tottenham (a suburb of London roughly equivalent to South Bronx) complained that there were no jobs available. By any standards the area has an abundance of transport connections to nearby areas where jobs are plentiful.

One issue is that underclass culture males often are nervous and uncomfortable outside their own neighborhoods. If you come from a gang environment, you tend to be wary about other neighborhoods even if they are objectively safer. Part of it is that growing up in a gang environment nurtures an affect of machismo to prevent being predated, which doesn't fit in well in more prosperous neighborhoods. Some sociologist detailed all this (Elijah Anderson?).

For example, the now-demolished Robert Taylor Homes in Chicago were only 5 to 7 miles south of the Loop, with ample public transportation, but they were an island of joblessness.

What moves with them?

Did the study look at whether other sources of family support--grandparents, for example, who provide free daycare--move with the family, or did they remain behind, Did other sources of social support--churches--change or remain the same.

There is more to a house than a house.

The breaking up of compact, walkable multi-generational Catholic neighborhoods in places like the West Side of Chicago in the 1960s-1970s due to crime tended to be personal disasters for families when they were dispersed to the suburbs far from their support networks of relatives.

In Chicago neighborhoods like Austin, Catholic ethnics had achieved by 1965 a family-oriented urbanist lifestyle that would make Matthew Yglesias drool: Dad takes the El downtown to play tuba at the Lyric Opera, mom takes the one car to the school where she teaches, the kids walk to their local school, and after school they walk to grandma's house until mom gets home from her job.

But that city life got smashed to bits by crime from 1967 onward.

Crime is one reason, as is racism -- but a lot of people moved from city to suburb in the post war era because they wanted the (larger) house with a yard in an unpolluted area with low taxes and good (or at least newly built) schools. We forget easily today just how bad the air quality used to be in large cities-- I remember as a child growing up twenty five miles from downtown Detroit being able to tell what direction was wast by the smudge on the horizon that marked the city.

Moving is inherently stressful. This is rooted in our biology. A large chunk of mortality from the two nuclear meltdowns is from the stress of the relocations. Similarly relocation causes stress for many animals.

Perhaps this is why so many people don't move, sometimes even when faced with severe hardship or likely death as the alternaticd

Keep in mind that most of the demolished housing projects in Chicago, such as Cabrini-Green (only 1.0 miles from the Magnificent Mile) were highly convenient to jobs. In fact, that's why they were demolished -- because the land was worth a fortune if the public housing residents could be driven away. The spot in Cabrini-Green where I ran into a mob milling about in the street watching a car burn in 1983 is now a fly fishing boutique for Chicagoans who have second homes in places like Aspen.

I have no substantive comment but it does call to mind UAW contracts, which still have explicit distance limits in them as regards relocation. That is, if a worker lost a job at plant X due to shutdown or whatever, she or he could not be forced to take a job at plant Y (which had job openings) if it were more than Z miles from his or her home (actually calculated by "zones"). That was in the past... now relocation can be forced to some extent, but there is relocation assistance at one lower level if the transfer is "in-zone" and a higher amount if "out-of-zone."

The extreme case of this (long before the contracts were changed after the Great Recession) was in California, The GM Van Nuys plant closed in 1992, but under rules limiting the amount of movement the company could require (at that time at least, this limit was 50 miles), the last person in the local "Jobs Bank" (who had to check in each day, even though there was no work, and received close to 100% of full pay) left in 2004! There was no GM employment alternative within 50 miles, and so the workers just idled along, year in and year out....

UK parliamentarian David Willetts explained in 2009's book "The Pinch" why native poor in Britain don't move to jobs in London:

Willetts nicely lays out one reason why the Blair-Brown Bubble in London did so little to alleviate unemployment among young Englishmen in blue collar cities like Liverpool (just as the Bush Bubble in Las Vegas didn`t help American workers in Cleveland, as I pointed out in on July 7, 2006). He writes: “Quite simply, high house prices were one factor sucking in immigrants.”

Willetts observes, “The young man from Liverpool does not see why he should live in more cramped conditions than his family back in Liverpool occupy”. In contrast, the immigrant crams into a house with many others from his country. “His willingness to be under-housed gives him a labour market advantage and it is greater if house prices are higher”. In turn, sucking in immigrants creates a vicious cycle, driving up housing prices, which drives out more natives.

Moreover, remittances sent home from London to Liverpool buy a lot less in Liverpool than remittances sent home to a poor country:

“So it is not that our Liverpudlian is somehow a bad person compared to our Pole. It is that he or she cannot capture similar benefits for their family by under-housing themselves in London.”

Willetts sums up:

“The crucial proposition therefore underlying the economics of immigration in Britain is as follows. The larger the proportion of earnings consumed by housing costs, the greater the benefits of under-housing and the greater the price advantage of immigrant labour. It was not despite the high cost of housing that immigrants came to the house price hotspots in Britain to make a living—it was because of them.”

He goes on to add:

“People are not willing to accept under-housing for ever. It may be bearable if you are single and in your twenties or early thirties. … But it is much harder having a baby in circumstances like that.”

I don't buy this line of thinking that low-skilled immigrants are driving up housing prices. If they are willing to do the same jobs for less and be "underhoused", shouldn't this imply lower housing prices than the case of more highly paid non-displaced workers bidding up prices even higher?

This is an entirely different story than, say, Toronto or Vancouver, some sub-regions of which are stock full of millionaire Chinese who unambiguously drive up housing prices (for better or worse - there are definitely winners in that game too, considering that this reflects a net influx of money into local real estate).

The supply of housing in London is relatively fixed.

Everyone is competing for the same flat. The person willing to pay the most for that flat will get it.

Imagine there are only two bidders, Wiktor Warsaw and Linda Liverpool.

Wiktor earns £400/week and Linda earns £500/week.

If they were both willing to dedicate an equal share of their income to housing, Linda would be able to outbid Wiktor.

However, if Wiktor is willing to spend half his income on housing and Linda is only willing to pay 30%, Wiktor can outbid Linda.

Now imagine that Wiktor is willing to split a one bedroom flat with Piotr. Now he's able to massive outbid Linda even though Linda earns more than he or Piotr do.

That's how low skill immigrants can push out higher income natives.

If we're looking at both the job market and rental market at the same time, this still doesn't make sense to me.

Yes, Wiktor and Piotr together are willing to pay more than Linda on her own. But, they fill to employment positions, not one. Say, they are willing to pay 20% more than Linda can on her own, say $1200 a month instead of $1000 a month.

Now, those two jobs both need to be filled. In the case you mention, total rental demand associated with those two jobs is $1200 a month for the immigrant case, but $2000 a month for the case of people not willing to have a roommate. Hence, the non-immigrant case is associated with higher rents, and the immigrant case associated with lower rents.

Anecdotal example - I moved from Queens, NY to Martha's Vineyard and was very surprised (maybe naively so) how much more money a lower-skilled person is able to make and how much nicer the life is. I've worked in restaurants, retail, and landscaping. I was able to make a very good living while being in a stunningly beautiful place where people routinely leave cars and houses unlocked.

I always wondered why more people didn't at least attempt a move like that - hairdressers and construction workers routinely make double or triple what they'd make in, say, upstate New York or Western Massachusetts. And all the while living on a resort for all intents and purposes.

It was a little stressful - I didn't have a job lined up or even a place to sleep when I landed but after a couple of months I felt at home. But I also wasn't embedded in a network of friends or family before the move so that cut my perceived risk and cost.

Having said that, I knew someone who had worked there before who pointed me in the right direction. There's a reason why immigrants and people who relocate end up in specific neighborhoods. A lot of the Brazilians on the island were from the same are in Brazil (and this pattern holds elsewhere with "transplants").

For people who want to travel the world but are not wealthy, one of the main factors is increasingly persuasive sums of anecdotal claims that it is easy in some particular city to find jobs in bars, restaurants and construction, with the exception that the only candidate cites are ones with cultural capital.

At the base of these social issues are the factors that form initial individual motivations.

Response to circumstances (Toynbee's "challenges"?) appear as a broad correlation.

Commonalities of individual motivations are a basis for the formation of cultures.

You guys heard of the endowment effect, right? I'm sure it applies to places you live just as much as it applies to things you own.

I know that the longer I live in a given place, the more I identify with it, and the more disdainful I am of other places I could live. With each passing year that I live in Virginia, I become slightly more dismissive of Maryland, despite the fact that when I first moved to this region these places were more or less equivalent to me.

Historian Susan J. Matt wrote a fine book in 2011 called "Homesickness: An American History." Most people feel homesickness when they move, but in 19th Century America the culture acknowledged and validated such feelings, while 20th Century American culture criticized such feelings and encouraged a stiff upper lip because frequent moves were a part of the culture of national organizations, like the military and big corporations.

I think the trend is moving back toward being more rooted.

Perhaps one reason for the whole tech industry crowding into Silicon Valley is, if you can afford the immense real estate costs, you can enjoy a job-hopping career without having to move your kids.

Here's my review of Dr. Matt's book:

Yeah, I hear you. Since I moved to the Third World (Greece, Thailand, now the Philippines) I feel the same way about Silicon Valley and Washington, DC (my former homes, where I was making six figures, compared to living off my savings and some small freelancing projects now).

I thought you were a one percenter?

Shorter, and politically incorrect, version: white flight is justified.

For what it's worth, my family was living in public housing in Henderson, Nevada that was demolished in 1972. Bulldozers knocked some of the buildings down before we had moved out of ours, and as a child might, I worried that they might mistakenly knock over ours before we moved out. That land is still vacate, the concrete slab foundations still there, which is interesting given the extreme population growth of that county and city over the past four decades. I don't have any particular insight on the topic, but thought some might like to know that one MR reader is among those being discussed.

The only thing bad about public housing in the USA are the neighbors, if they do crime. Otherwise, by Third World standards (I'm in the Philippines now) the housing in the USA is luxury. Here, by way of just one example, they use "hollow block" (aka "cinder block") that is so fragile, because they economize on the cement used, that literally you can crumble the block in your hands. And they build two story houses with this stuff, held together by the weakest of mortar. Compression strength (at best) only. Numerous other examples exist, including no use of U-traps in drains (so stench and bugs constantly come up the drain pipe), no mosquito mesh nets on windows (common even in Greece), no hot water heater (tankless or otherwise), weak water pressure (20 psi not 40 psi--if you have any psi), and of course frequent (once a day) blackouts of electricity, leaking roofs; they don't pack the soil when they pour concrete, so settling and crack formation in concrete is a given; they use the thinnest rebar--9mm--they can get away with for supposedly reinforced concrete, they don't poor concrete slabs at least 4" thick, etc etc etc. The entire structure will blow away the first Cat 5 or even maybe Cat 4 typhoon that comes. Tornadoes? That's a death sentence.

A little learning is a dangerous thing ....

I have a vague memory of a study a few years back - maybe many years back - that looked at the number of people who leave their homes/homelands when things get bad, such as the numbers leaving Ireland during the potato famine, etc. The number was surprisingly small across all cultures, even when facing imminent threat to survival.

Made me think then that the US religious belief in self reliance might be inherited... We're the children of the people who left their homes (and in the future, the children of those who scaled yuuuge walls) despite enormous risks, and with little resources.

It's a theory in need of data, unless I can find that study (and, of course, if I remember it right).

Inherited maybe. But it's also part of our cultural DNA: the mythos of the pilgrims and pioneers and the Gold Rush and all the rest still resonates.
One big difference today though: in earlier times, even into the 20th century, you could move to a new place more or less ignorant of its details (and you could believe various positive rumors about it). These days it is incredibly easy to get very detailed information about any place in the country. Many people probably read about crime rates or real estate costs or unemployment stats in parts distant and figure it isn't worth the move.

We were all nomads once upon a time. I think a lot of resistance to moving is cultural, although in our nomadic days family and friends were always with you, much different than the kind of moves we generally consider these days. Your theory is very interesting, however. I don't imagine it would be a huge part of the story, but almost certainly not zero.

Does the full report talk at all about the impact on the kids in the place they move to? I can believe the kids who move might benefit, but I suspect they would bring disruption and violence to the neighborhoods and schools they move into and that could hurt the prospects of the kids already there such that the net result might be negative.

Relevant ??

So is this post actually a response to this article? (below)

Homo economicus, not homo sapiens? The number one correlation among Trump voters is self-identification as "American", in response to a question about their ancestry or ethnic/cultural identity.

“It’s a nonurban, blue-collar and now apparently quite angry population,” said William Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution. “They’re not people who have moved around a lot, and things have been changing away from them, but they live in areas that feel stagnant in a lot of ways.” - from the NYT article.

Let me just mention that:

1) "Homo economicus, or economic human, is the figurative human [ . . . ] characterized by the infinite ability to make rational decisions." (Investopedia) or "consistently rational and narrowly self-interested agents who usually pursue their subjectively-defined ends optimally." (Wikipedia)


2) Tyler has said he doesn't believe much in human "free will"

. . . Anybody?

What kind of capital are the poor to rely on to move and to become established after the move? By definition they lack money, but a bit less obviously they may also lack education, training, experience, and connections. Just an honest question, really.

Maybe they need an alarm clock?

Why don't the people in Haiti move? It would solve a lot of problems there.

Exactly. Syria, too. And what better place for them to be than the U.S.? Doubt if many Republican voters would appreciate that.

It would be interesting to study the effects of the criminal justice system on mobility. In RI the job market sucks, but >5% of the population is on parole, probation, etc. They can't move, and are very likely poor.

I wonder about the role of education, i.e. in addition to moving for jobs, some people move for educational reasons -- in particular, teenagers who are good enough students to get admitted to high quality colleges, and who may matriculate at a college thousands of miles away if it's an Ivy-caliber college, and who thus are not limited to simply going to their local college, or community college, or no college at all.

And the role of extended families. Not just for sentimental reasons, but in addition as a source of insurance (a place to move back to if you can't afford your rent), and a source of child care and elder care that would otherwise have to be purchased. Being willing to move thousands of miles to pursue the best possible education or get the best possible job can provide high monetary benefits -- but at the cost of losing the benefits of having your extended family close by.

Exactly. A well-stated & welcome (if obvious) point - thank you. It's part of what's called human capital. Not acknowledging it, or its absence, is another way the right pushes to distribute privileges & advantages to the few and obligations to the many, as Corey Robin points out.
As much as Charles Murray's "Coming Apart" gets right about this, this is part of the picture.

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