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Dream Big!

Fewer Americans seeking greener pastures

 

NEW YORK – Aug. 3, 2017 – Many small towns in sparsely populated American counties are struggling economically, but while many residents see leaving as the best way to improve their lives, a surprising share remain stuck in place.

For a number of reasons, they no longer believe they can leave.

The overall mobility of the U.S. population is at its lowest level since measurements were first taken in the 1940s, falling by almost half since its most recent peak in 1985. In rural America, which is coping with the onset of socioeconomic problems that were once reserved for inner cities, the rate of people who moved across a county line in 2015 was just 4.1 percent, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis – and a drop from 7.7 percent in the late 1970s.

This drop in mobility is not only keeping rural residents from climbing a ladder to better livelihoods, it is choking off the labor supply for employers in areas where jobs are plentiful. This limits the economic growth that naturally occurs when people and capital cluster together, says David Schleicher, a professor at Yale Law School who has studied the issue.

Economists say there are several practical reasons for the declining rural mobility – the first being the cost of housing. While small-town home prices have only modestly recovered from the housing market meltdown, years of restrictive land-use regulations have driven up prices in metropolitan areas to the point where it is difficult for all but the most highly educated professionals to move.

Source: Wall Street Journal (08/03/17) Adamy, Janet; Overburg, Paul

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