Thursday, June 11, 2009

Fearing Richard Florida

Xenophobia will never inform useful public policy. This fear of outsiders also extends to anxiety about the geographically mobile. Next American City does a good job in framing this tension, the one between individual opportunity seeking and the economic stability of community. In the middle of this debate is Richard Florida:

When we look at the factors that affect the likelihood Gen Ys will stay in their current community, the beauty of the place again mattered, along with its climate, the ability to get around easily with little traffic, and affordable housing. This is important, because Gen Y members are considerably less attached to where they live than other Americans. About a quarter (26.5%) of them said they were extremely satisfied with the place they currently live, compared with nearly half (47.4%) of all Americans. Twentysomethings are on average three or four times more likely to move than forty- or fiftysomethings.

The critics seem to blame Florida for this Gen Y tendency. Granted, he is the Pied Piper of Urban Nomads. But increasing geographic mobility is a fact that we must reconcile whether we like it or not.

We should fear those who champion geographic immobility. There's a long history of oppression and human rights abuses tied to such policies. Incentivizing staying put is a sure recipe for disaster.

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