'The Cost of Living Is Going to Drown Us': Why Some Americans Are Moving

Young people don't move as much as they used to, a trend the New York Times called the "Go-Nowhere Generation." But whereas the Times went searching for clues in psychology and culture, we did our best to pin the answer on math and economics. You responded with hundreds of amazing comments that revealed a population that is still, in fact, going somewhere.

Getting around is cheap. Moving is expensive. It requires money (which is tight) and jobs (which are few). The most popular places to rent are getting prohibitively expensive. The cheapest homes are in the suburbs of the Sun Belt, left abandoned many miles of road (and tanks of gas) away from work.

We received hundreds of comments and testimonials from readers on moving in America. Here are the stories of the non-movers. And here are the stories of the movers:

THE 'HUNKER-DOWN' GENERATION

As a millennial who has "recently" moved (two years ago), the driving factor in my decision was one of financial security. While I had a job opportunity outside of my current city, was it worth the overall cost of shifting my life and starting somewhere anew? 

Thankfully, I was moving from an urban center (Boston) to a very rural area (Upper Valley of New Hampshire). The decision was a win / win across the board as the cost of living was significantly lower despite the fact that the wage increase was not dramatic. 

At this point, my girlfriend and I are now planning a couple years in the future when she will be graduating from nursing school with a MS in Nurse Anesthesia. We're exploring all of our options nationwide for potential locations, but the driving factor comes down to whether or not we can afford the move. We will both have employment here in the Upper Valley (potentially), but want to find somewhere a little less remote. 

However, all the wishing in the world won't change the fact that between the two of us we will be carrying a student debt burden close to a quarter million dollars and we're seeing urban rents climb in all our prospective cities. 

In the end, we may just hunker down here and start wearing a lot more flannel.

'I packed all I could fit in my car and moved to Laramie, WY'

After receiving my BBA from a Virginia public university in 2008, I moved back in with my parents in Northern VA for a couple years while I worked in the hospitality industry (commuted two hours a day and loathed every minute of it). While living at home, I was able to save money and travel whenever I had an opportunity. On one trip, I randomly met my boyfriend at the University of Wyoming while he was in the midst of working on his PhD in Geophysics. Sparks flew and a long-distance relationship emerged. This turn of events prompted me to quit my job to pursue the life out west I'd always dreamed of.

I packed all I could fit in my car and ended up moving to Laramie, WY (small town of 30,000, fifty miles from the nearest city) almost two years ago. I spent five months unemployed until finding an hourly job to make ends meet. After countless, hard to come by interviews, I finally landed a new job working in hotel sales making more money than my previous job in Virginia - in an area with a significantly lower cost of living.

Although I know we won't be here forever, I know moving across the country in my 20s was one of the best choices I ever made. The friendly atmosphere, five minute commute and gorgeous views of wide-open spaces are refreshing. My cliché advice to other young people considering a cross-country move - follow your heart.

'Priced out of San Francisco'

My girlfriend and I moved from San Francisco to Berkeley after getting priced out of SF. Because of the housing crash and the second tech bubble, rent in SF has sky rocketed. I haven't seen any official data, but it seems like the going rate for a 1-bedroom is around $2,300. I work as an editorial manager and she's a teaching artist, but $2,300 is just too much. When looking for an apartment in the East Bay, we looked at both Berkeley and Oakland, but settled on Berkeley. - Patrick Castrenze

'THE COST OF LIVING IS GOING TO DROWN US'

My husband and I just found out we are expecting our 3rd child so we're moving to the middle if nowhere Kansas from Los Angeles. I already have one kid in private school because public is horrible and the cost of living is going to drown us. We bought a house for 15k in kansas, we couldn't rent for a year for that here. Wish us luck! - Charlotte Elyse Whittaker
On the road to Wichita
After graduating from the University of Oregon last June, I moved from Portland to Los Angeles to try and find a job in the entertainment industry. At the time that I left, Portland had a burgeoning entertainment industry of its own (thanks to a number of tax incentives created to draw thrifty film crews to shoot in Oregon), but I opted to move to LA because I felt that the job prospects would be better and, more importantly, I specifically WANTED to be further away from where I grew up.

It's not that I don't get along with my parents; we get along great and they've been very supportive of my decision to move. I just wanted to get out and see the world while I'm still young and unattached.

I've had fairly steady freelance work as a production assistant in the 8 months since I've moved. I've also had my fair share of loneliness and general angst trying to get set up as an adult in a completely new place, but I don't regret my decision at all because at the end of the day, I'm doing what I've always wanted to do.
- Truman Capps
'It's not about reluctance to move, but a lack of purpose'
I'm 53 and have moved four times between three U.S. coasts over 30 years, but I moved FOR a job, not to get a job that might or might not be there.

It's that simple. It's not about a reluctance to move, it's about a lack of purpose to move.

In large part, young people move, and have moved to advance their careers, or their spouses career - both jobs and spouses are in short supply.
- Bob Foolery
FROM MY PARENTS IN VIRGINIA TO THE PLAINS OF MONTANA

I spent the summer after graduation, 2010, with my parents in Virginia looking for jobs and by September had received one phone call, from Havre, Montana, a town of 9,000 that is 120 miles from the next largest city and a half hour south of Canada, real cowboy and Indian territory.

Carrying all my possessions across 2,000 miles of prairie may sound like a Steinbeck-ian pursuit of a better life, but it really was desperation, to take any job that would have me, even if it meant hiding myself away on a dusty frontier. The damn place doesn't have a Taco Bell.

I plan to be a moving young adult for those charts again in another year, hopefully to a place that doesn't think falafel is some brand of waffle-mix.

'I am lucky'

I'm from Boston, MA. I received a full tuition scholarship for my 4 years in college. Straight after graduating in May 2007 I moved to Korea to teach English. There I saved up and brought back many tens of thousands of dollars in March 2011. I moved back with my parents, and soon after my friend found me a few teaching jobs. I proposed to my girlfriend and will be married in September. I'm currently both teaching and working towards my Masters of Education.

Using the money I saved in Korea, I'm paying for school and the downpayment on a condo. My parents are signing for me and my fiancée in order to bring the interest rate down to 3.25%. A two bedroom apartment in and around Boston is $1,500 to $2,500 but with a 3.25% interest on the condo and I'll only pay $1,500.

I am lucky enough to have had a full tuition scholarship (so no debt), left the country (and saved a lot), returned with jobs, and have parents who helped me to signed a condo.
- Kevin Thai
'I FOUND A JOB 2,000 MILES FROM MY HOME'
When I graduated from college, I moved to Japan to teach English. I ended up living in South Korea and France after that, teaching English and paying off debt.

I moved back to the US for graduate school right after the economic downturn. I could not find a job after graduation, moved in with my parents, and worked part-time as an admin assistant. Finally, I found a job 2,000 miles away from my home state. Moving without a job, but with tens of thousands of dollars in debt, would have been highly irresponsible. When I took the train through North Dakota in order to get to my new job, I got to hear about lots of disappointments from recent migrants.

I should add that while I got my license when I was 16, I've never owned a car. However, I it hasn't affected my mobility; I've been to most of the states, lived in four cities in the US, and had extra pages stapled in my passport to hold all of the visas. - Marielle Brown
The cost of living is going to drown us'
I moved overseas after college and never went back. Five countries and nearly 10 years later, I'm still not going back. Many Americans don't realize it, but there are plenty of growing economies in the world with opportunities to be had, many in countries with much better healthcare, social services, and political situations than the US. As a member of the internet generation, it seems absurd to me that I should be locked into working full time in one place for a big company just to get health insurance - why would I do that when I can live abroad and have a lot more flexibility to move around, work freelance or part time, and not have to worry about life's basic necessities as long as I earn a decent income? I've also been able to learn two foreign languages and have countless amazing experiences. There are many options for young people to move abroad, from working holiday visas to teaching English to the Peace Corps. It's a big world out there, go see it! - Alanna Krause
The cost of living is going to drown us'
I second what Alanna said. I moved to Brazil seven months ago and am very happy with my choice.
However, I don't think it's nesscarily the right option for everyone. I don't mean to suggest that she was implying that either but I just wanted to add that there is aslo a lot to be said for staying where you are and helping to improve it. The problem I found was that real chance comes slow. Having the time to wait on the world around you to change is not always a luxury that not everyone can afford. Sometimes there are no parents' basements to boomerang back to and relocating becomes a matter of survival. - Chesney Hearst

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Derek Thompson is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he writes about economics, labor markets, and the entertainment business.

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