Monday, December 22, 2008

American Strength Grows Weaker

I've read a number of articles about the lack of geographic mobility in Europe and Canada. This propensity to stay put is understood as a problem to be solved. Relocation is an effective strategy to deal with economic crisis. However, US labor flows are dynamic. But that advantage is now on the wane:

The monthly Current Population Survey found that fewer than 12 percent of Americans moved since 2007, a decline of nearly a full percentage point compared with the year before. In the 1950s and 1960s, the number of movers hovered near 20 percent. ...

... According to the census' American Community Survey, New York retained first place in the proportion of residents who were born in the state - more than 81 percent - with those from outside the New York City area generally less mobile.

The top five also included Louisiana, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Ohio, generally Rust Belt states with older populations.

In contrast, fewer than 14 percent of Nevadans and 28 percent of Arizonans were born in those states.

Measuring the percentage of people born in a state who still live there, Texas ranked first, with nearly 76 percent.

Alaska recorded the smallest share of people born in the state and still living there, 28 percent, followed by Wyoming, the Dakotas and Montana.

An aging population is one explanation for the immobility in the Rust Belt. I suspect another issue is the growing linkage between educational attainment and geographic mobility. People are often stuck in poor neighborhoods, unable or unwilling to move. My hypothesis is that if you mapped the mobility of your region, the most inert places would also be the most economically distressed.

Robust out-migration is a signal of economic health, more now than ever. It doesn't seem that way when in-migration is just a trickle. Even in locations with little labor churn, the best talent will figure out a way to leave. Yet I wonder about Texas. The Great Lone Star State Boomerang Migration?

No comments: