The Go-Nowhere Generation Speaks: 'I'd Love to Move, but I Can't'
Here's what we know about moving in America: We're not doing it like we used to. The share of single people and families moving between states is the lowest in half a century.
But why? We cannot hope to know why 150 million households -- or 300 million Americans -- choose to move or not move across the country to find a new job or to make a new start. There are too many variables to name. But we can start to count them: Jobs play a role. Income plays a role. Affordable housing, and good schools, and cost-of-living, and urban culture, and space -- all these play a role.
When we wrote about this "go-nowhere" trend in our article Generation Stuck, we received hundreds of responses from movers and non-movers across the country. Our first batch focused on the the movers. This collection of reader testimonials focuses on the non-movers, but listens to the movers, too. Keep writing.
'THERE ARE NO JOBS AVAILABLE!'
Young people aren't moving to "job centers" because there are no jobs available for them! There is little incentive for a college graduate with $400 monthly college loan payments to move to a city with high rents where jobs are hard to come by and pay is in the $10-15 range.
'Laid off 4 times in the past 6 years...'
I'm a single renter and I 'work' in pharma. I've been laid off 4 times in the past 6 years and I still know people who've had it worse.
Should I pack up my belongings and chase a job all the way to Boston? Should I leave behind my social and professional networks and start all over again? Will I just be laid off in another 6 months as a newly-minted nobody without a support structure around me? When I see a position in another city all I can think is 'what would it be like to be unemployed there'?
'Moving is risky'
Moving is a risky endeavor. Moving gives a possibility of better income, but at the loss of networks of people that have built up over the years. Americans have become more and more risk averse when it comes to safety (how could you think of letting your 10 year old bike the neighborhood unsupervised?!) and maybe this desire not to take risk has moved to the decision to move.
Another part of the puzzle is that the country has become more homogeneous over the years. The difference in economic opportunity between the town and the big city is smaller than it used to be. Also many entertainment and cultural events are more likely to occasionally to roll into SmallTown, USA than they once were. And technological marvels -- internet, cell phones, and the like -- are just as accessible in Flyover country as they are in big cities.
'People don't want to live like vagabonds'
'28, with a Master's, deep in student loan debt...'
'MONEY IS THE ISSUE'
'Since 2007, I have lived in New New York City, Tucson, Damascus, Amman, and Oxford'
Generation Stuck starts with college
MARCEL PROUST WAS RIGHT
'Moving delays your life'
'I moved to Australia ... I cannot see myself moving back'
Since arriving in Australia, I've been employed at 3x the income I had in my best job in the US and my 'benefits' are built in to employment (retirement savings) or becoming a permanent resident (Medicare). I am making my US student loan repayments and still have money for other things (from mortgage payments to travel) and I honestly cannot see myself moving back.
'Most of us are broke'
BLAME THE PARENTS
I loaded up my car and moved out west to California back in 2009. I had a job back home, but it was going nowhere and I was pretty motivated to move to a place that had a little more going for it. I spent about 3 months applying for jobs online with little to no success. In the current economic climate most if not all companies are totally unwilling to assist in any way with relocation, and tend to favor local candidates as a result.
I weighed the pros and cons of my situation and decided it was worth the risk to me to leave my job, family, friends and home to relocate to somewhere nicer. I was quite unhappy where I was, so I had a fairly strong motivation to change things up. It certainly wasn't cake and pie to arrive in a foreign city with no job prospects, no firm living arrangements, no friends or connections of any kind, as some of the (presumably older) posters have insinuated.
I did manage to make it work, and I am glad it worked out as well as it did, but I can certainly empathize with more risk-averse peers. There are some who may not be living their ideal life, but aren't unhappy enough to take the drastic steps required to pack up your life and try again somewhere else.
One glaring omission from the Times article is the change in job security from previous generations. My father worked with the same employer for 30 years before retiring. I experienced my first lay-off within 1 year of graduating from university. I work in biotech, and I would say about 90% of my colleagues in my age bracket have experienced at least one lay-off, merger, bankruptcy or some kind of massive restructuring. I've had 3 different employers in the 2 years since I moved to California, and while I've never been out of work for very long, I can't even begin to fathom the notion of retiring with my current employer. At the current rate, I guess I should anticipate around 25 more employers before reaching retirement age. It's much easier to deal with insecurity when you have a well established support network. Why give that up just to be left floundering alone in some far off city?