Sunday, April 16, 2017

"Why Americans have stopped moving"

Via Drudge:  In “The Complacent Class: The Self-Defeating Quest for the American Dream,” economist Tyler Cowen presents an X-ray of societal sclerosis. This isn’t merely another exercise in nostalgia, a sentimental yearning for a bygone era (when, for instance, crime and pollution were higher, people were highly likely to marry someone who lived within five blocks and you would buy an album containing 10 lousy songs because you liked one track). Something has changed in the American character and in the American economy, and the two seem to be reinforcing each other.

For instance, parts of the country (New York City, Silicon Valley, Texas) are doing extremely well, yet able-bodied adults sit idle in other areas. Why don’t the unemployed, and the large numbers who have dropped out of the labor force, move to the boom towns? Wouldn’t it be better to drive an Uber in Brooklyn than to get by on welfare in West Virginia?

Yet labor mobility is in a funk. Especially after WWII, millions of Americans with limited resources — southern blacks — moved hundreds of miles from home to take up industrial jobs in the north. At the peak, more than 30 percent of southern-born blacks moved north, from 1920 through the 1960s. Even when technological limitations made long-distance travel extremely onerous, in the late 19 century, we were willing to travel in search of opportunity. In the second half of the 1800s, more than two-thirds of US men over 30 had moved away from their hometowns, and more than a third of those moves were for more than 100 miles.

(Link to the whole article)


john said...

We have also become much more conservative in how we raise our kids. Used to be the life of the highway beckoned, or joining the Army, or hitchhiking through Europe. Anything to get out of the house. Now our kids move as far as mom's basement.

A financial advising radio show in our town - guy recommended taking out interest only loans on houses, the rationale being that home equity was really a chimera, and worse, mortgages and their false perception of increasing wealth in-place kept people from moving to areas where jobs were better. Those folks who ended up way underwater after the housing crash should have just moved out, leaving the keys in the door, and restarting their lives somewhere else.

Cowen's Marginal Revolution is my second favorite place to visit. But his use of "complacent" bothers me a bit, as I think it is more fear than complacency that keeps people in place.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Wouldn’t it be better to drive an Uber in Brooklyn than to get by on welfare in West Virginia?

That question right there shows that the author has no concept of anything outside of his own life, his own bubble and no experiences.

It is about quality of life and how you perceive those things that bring the quality. The things you treasure in life. I would rather be poor in a small town than struggling to live by driving an Uber in a big city. In a small town you know your neighbors, who are thankfully not piled on top of you like they are in Brooklyn. You have friends and people who care about you, who greet you in the store, at the post office.

In a small town, things cost less. You can live in a spacious home with trees in the yard, for the same price you can rent a small studio apartment over a Korean grocery store. Somethings cost more in a small town, but many of those things that really count cost less or are free. Do we have all the cool hip restaurants, coffee houses etc? Nope. But at the local mom and pop hash house, they know you, are happy to see you, treat you like family, and give you good service.

I'm not saying people shouldn't live in the urban areas. I've lived in big cities. I now live in small town America. So, unlike the author, I have some basis of comparison.

Even IF I were wealthy, I would rather not live in a large city. I'd rather have less, because to me...less is more.

Leland said...

Not one mention of welfare. Why move when the government will give you money to stay?

ricpic said...

"Used to be the life of the highway beckoned, or joining the Army, or hitchhiking through Europe."

Don't kids do those things today? I'm seriously asking because I have no idea what they do or don't do. How poverty stricken a life it must be not to hit the road in your youth. My great adventure came when I was sixteen and road the bus from the Port Authority in NYC across the country to San Francisco. Stayed in a skid row hotel, walked all over the hills, ate huge $2.50 breakfasts in skid row diners. When the money was almost gone road the bus back to Des Moines Iowa where a YMCA manager got me work detasseling corn and then building chicken coops with a carpenter, Big Al. Caught hell when I got home but wow. Of course adolescence had a lot to do with it and being able to be thrilled about almost everything in an unforced way. How sad to miss out on that.

Rabel said...

"Wouldn’t it be better to drive an Uber in Brooklyn than to get by on welfare in West Virginia?"

Maybe not the best example. Forty percent of current New York City residents were born outside the US.

Rabel said...

That's a lot of mobility.

john said...

ripcic - "Life of the highway"

My sample is small and my data are largely anecdotal. But I am convinced that between their electronic devices which draw their energy from the user, an increasing fear that the world is not safe, and parental pressure to get/stay in college so not to jeopardize financial aid, there are a lot fewer kids hitting the road nowadays.

Same with off the road. My wife and I avid hikers and were avid backpackers, but not seeing that many younger people (and older ones for that matter) on the trails anymore.

Rabel said...

Speaking of New York, I was cyber-stalking Trooper York a couple of days ago. It didn't start out as stalking. I was thinking about supper ideas and since I had had several online interactions with Trooper the idea of looking at his lovely wife's food blog popped into my head.

I couldn't remember the name of the blog but I did remember the name of their store - Lee Lee's Valise. It's a memorable name (obviously credited to Lee Lee) so I typed that into google thinking it would give me a link to the food blog.

It didn't, but it did offer up a Google map. So I thought, hey, why not take a closer look. I clicked on street view and took a peek (this would be where we transitioned into stalking). It's a very nice place. A corner location with large windows and busy displays which give you an inviting look-through into the store itself. Well done (also clearly credited to Lee Lee). It has a narrow doorway opening to the street which seemed to invite you in while making it a little hard to find your way out. A good layout for a retail establishment most likely credited to Miss Lee Lee.

Anyway, I took the opportunity to cyber-drive around the neighborhood to see just what this part of New Yawk City with its 8 million naked stories looked like up close. It looked - somewhat to my surprise - nice. It looked (dare I say it) - white. Maybe "All-American urban" would be a better way to put it. Overall it seems like about the best set-up one could have if one were forced to live in an overcrowded hive of soul-sucking villainy and evil.

But back to the stalking. Street view has a history feature which will give you static shots of previous visits by the Google map car. I wanted to see how the neighborhood and store had changed over the last few years so I clicked through a few of the older images (overall I'd say it looks better today than yesterday).

And there, right there, in the 2009 image, standing sideways in the narrow doorway, staring at the Google car in his relaxed fit khakis, was none other than the Trooper man himself. Mission accomplished. I wonder if you remember, Trooper.

I eventually found the blog - All About Lisa D. There's a photo of Trooper's daughter on the front page.

ndspinelli said...

Rabel, When Google Earth came online I came on my computer screen. What an investigative tool. I was sitting @ my favorite coffee shop on Mission Blvd. last week when the Google Map car drove by. I put both hands on my knees w/ my middle fingers displayed. I will wait to see if they get pixelized like my face.

Rabel said...

It's really amazing that they've driven down and photographed pretty much every street in the country.

Rabel said...

On a personal note, I have a toothache. It's been sore for a few days but really started firing up on Good Friday. It's a wisdom tooth. Income taxes and a holiday toothache. Happy Easter. I hate the world.

Rabel said...

We had extra income last year in the form of a second paycheck for several months. That pay was treated by the withholding as if it were the only paycheck. I knew we would owe additional taxes due to the higher tax bracket and I estimated a bill of 3k to possibly as much as (gulp) 10k. It came in as 5k. So it could have been worse, but there goes the new 4k TV.

Amartel said...

"It's really amazing that they've driven down and photographed pretty much every street in the country."
They still haven't gotten to the rural area of Oregon where I spent my teenage years. It's mapped but, apparently, not important enough for Google street view. Which is awesome.

Amartel said...

I've still got one wisdom tooth. Two others were taken out early on and the other was dug so far into my jaw that it had to be surgically removed. Painful.

john said...

You can get 4k TVs for less than 4k.

Trooper York said...

Thanks for promoting the wife's blog. I really appreciate it.

Trooper York said...

Carroll Gardens is now very upscale. The last remnants of the working class Italians who used to live their are almost all gone. Me and Esposito's pork store are about all that is left.

The problem is the neighborhood has been depopulated. There used to be four families in each brown stone that all had a bunch of kids. Or several people got together to rent a floor. When they got tired of their roommates they would go to hang out in the bars and restaurants of the neighborhood. But then rich people from Manhattan came in and bought all of the brownstones and converted them to one families. At most they have one kid who is either an infant or a toddler. In the last three years the demographic has totally changed. Every other store is a kids store or a pet store. It has all changed drastically.

That doesn't mean you don't have the old problems that still crop up when you are in the city. Homeless people setting up outside your store. Wolf packs of kids coming to rob. It is just that you can't handle it old school anymore. Everybody has a cell phone camera. There is very little you can do. You can't even yell at people without it becoming an international incident.

It is time to move to the place DBQ describes. I am ready.

Chip Ahoy said...

You said road the bus. Twice!

ricpic said...

OMG, I did say road the bus twice.....MORTAFIED!

ricpic said...