This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 13th (it will be out in January 2020), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Sunday, October 22, 2017

The Demographics of Not Moving to Where the Jobs Are

There seems to be general agreement that Donald Trump's base of support are people who feel they are being left behind by the process of globalization and they want some change. It seems highly unlikely that Trump's proposed tax cuts will help those people, but this week's Economist takes a stab at the problem. 

The general pattern in the past in most countries of the world has been for people to go where the jobs are. My wife's grandfather migrated from Denmark in the late 19th century because there were no jobs there, but there was a chance to be a successful farmer in the American midwest. In my lifetime, my family certainly moved for economic reasons. During the first 12 years of my life, we lived in two different cities in northern California, three cities in Oregon, and one city in Arizona before settling down in San Diego. But Americans are moving less than they used to, according to Census data assembled by the Economist (see below). 

The Economist suggests that several demographic factors may help to understand this slowing of migration. There are now many more two-earner households, making it harder for couples to move (or even to decide where to move if they are going to move). At the same time, people may have older parents who are aging in place and who expect or at least hope that their children and grandchildren will be close enough to help them out. Another major impediment to movement is the high cost of housing in almost all of the urban places that are home to the superstar companies. The higher wages in those places may be offset by the cost of living there. There is also the fact that many unemployment and welfare benefits are place-specific. If you move, you lose those benefits, thus reducing the incentive to move since most people tend to be risk-averse.

The principal suggestion for change proposed by the Economist amounts to local economic development. This could involve a public-private partnership to invest in new types of businesses where globalization has left a labor force looking for work. Going along with this could be an investment in local community colleges geared toward teaching people the skills that these new companies need for success. This is so crazy it might just work.

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