click for ginormous chart


Fascinating discussion by in Richard Florida at the Atlantic, looking at how people are unable to move due to economic circumstances and real estate. It is quite telling . . .


The Geography of Stuck
Richard Florida
The Atlantic, Nov 25, 2011

Category: Economy, Real Estate

Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor implied. If you could repeat previously discredited memes or steer the conversation into irrelevant, off topic discussions, it would be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.

21 Responses to “Residency Immobility in the United States”

  1. ByteMe says:

    And that, to me, is why unemployment will remain high for a long time. Until people can get out of their houses, they can’t move to a better job somewhere else without an enormous economic hit. Solve one problem — the inability of people to get out of their homes — and the second problem — unemployment — starts to solve itself.

  2. Greg0658 says:

    that 60% swath from newengland around illinois looks alot like yankeedom in this piece in/on/about a new book:
    Author Takes Fresh Look at Shaping of U.S. Cultural, Political Landscape

    I’ll keep my flippant Nevada comment to myself

  3. RW says:

    It can be cultural too: I lived for some years in rural Kentucky and knew folks who were proud to have never left the county where they were born or even the house. Folks who were born one of those counties might leave for a time to find work but they usually returned and if they stayed away too long they were looked at askance.

    If you weren’t born there but moved in when young you might become a “credit to the community” but you were always “from off of here,” a friend, even a comrade, but not home kin. One of the most moving eulogies I ever heard was by the best friend of a man who had lived and worked 60 years in the town, a pillar and leader of the community, but he was not born there and the last line of the heartfelt eulogy gave the greatest praise his friend could think of: “It was almost as if he was one of us.”

    In urban areas the correlation between birth and death records is very poor, in many cities you can’t even research the topic because there is no connection between the two sets of records at all. This fact helped a lot of people who wanted to ‘disappear’ by changing their identity to someone who had died young enough to have no other record. Couldn’t get away with that in the county where I lived, think the correlation between birth and death records there was over 90%, well over.

  4. Outsider says:

    Using “Percent Born in State of Residence” to demonstrate a lack of mobility due to recent economic conditions seems like a watered-down data set. Showing working people who would normally be moving but aren’t, would be more informative. The data set shown includes people who didn’t move when the economy was great either. Where they were born doesn’t really matter.

    The first article in the series is more interesting –

    The neat looking chart included here is actually misleading.

  5. Mike in Nola says:

    Louisiana, and probably Mississippi, is very parochial. Especially New Orleanians. No way we ever imagined living in Texas until Katrina. I don’t really miss New Orleans except for the food and friends. New Orleans with 1/10 the population of Houston, has about 10 times as many good restaurants.

    A close relative’s husband got transferred from NOLA to Houston about 15 years ago. Raised her kid here. But, she can’t wait to get back. Her parents’ house was wiped out. Fortunately, they had plenty of insurance and savings and could have stayed in Houston or moved to a safer area of Louisiana. They rebuilt their house in the same spot.

    Had a number of clients that I found living in Houston and it’s the same story.

  6. ssc says:

    There are so many things wrong with this that I don’t even know where to begin, I suppose one can just go to the original article and read the comments.
    Off the top of my head: A California native born in San Diego, Ca that moved to Eureka, Ca will be considered as “stuck”, as this is somebody that is “native born and live in native state”, versus somebody that was born in Rhode Island then moved to Boston (no longer in “native born state”, must be “mobile”). Totally absurd. Same point can be made about any of the larger states such as Texas, New Mexico, Montana, Alaska,…Anybody that have ever lived in a large state knows that from one part of a state to another is more like traveling over multiple small states, not only in distance, but also in culture, employment, climate…And where is the breakdown on people that have been moved out and decided to move back (and may do that a number of times)???

  7. Moss says:

    How much is due to debt servitude.

  8. RW says:

    WRT debt servitude

    It’s largely anecdotal but, even though sharecropping isn’t as common as it once was (as far as I could tell), I saw a number of examples of what I would consider debt peonage in the rural south; e.g., a family with its ancestral 40 acres would pledge 10 of those acres in tobacco for loans which they could rarely if ever completely pay off.

    Still, as I more or less argued above, I’d guess that was due to a refusal to move as much as anything else.

    I suspect there was a similar level of refusal in much of Europe. One of the arguments against the success of the EU in the early days was the lack of labor mobility, laws as well as language barriers. I understand countries agreed to pass laws reducing restriction of labor movement but don’t know how successful that was; don’t think it was sufficient to compensate for the imbalance in capital flows in any case.

    As near as I can tell that was THE problem in the Eurozone — the imbalances between the current trade accounts of the southern countries compared to the northern– rather like the US in some ways I suppose although the US has mechanisms to “redistribute” wealth between states that the Eurozone lacks. Guess our “socialism” was better than theirs at least in that respect if not in any others.

  9. theexpertisin says:

    The claim that people are not moving elsewhere merely because of economic circumstances is absurd.

    Many will not move becuse of family relationships, friends, or perhaps (drum roll) they actually LIKE where they live. And a myriad of other seasons.

    This report is not worth a bucket of warm spit.


    BR: Family relationships, friends, liking where you live is the backdrop

    Now add in 1 in 4 houses with a mortgage are underwater, and you have a basis for less mobility.

  10. ssc says:

    >>Now add in 1 in 4 houses with a mortgage are underwater, and you have a basis for less mobility.<<

    One would think that, but there is really no true analytical data to either support or dispute that assumption. I can easily argue that the lack of jobs is the reason for less mobility, much more so than mortgage underwater. I am assuming that for anybody that hangs on to underwater obligation is somebody that have some means (job/income) to meet their payment. If no job (or no better job) to be had anywhere then one is stuck, not because of mortgage underwater but for the reason of where does one go?? I further assume that most people (especially deeply under water) when given a secure and lucrative opportunity, will not hesitate to walk away.

    By now, I think most of us have read stories about young adults living with their parents, these are people without mortgage, under water or otherwise, but they are certainly less mobile than when I was at that age. It's the jobs/income thing..


    BR: Lack of jobs is likely another factor . . . Read the linked article — it goes into all the details.

  11. leveut says:

    Hail Ritholtzia!

    How should I phrase it…there are several things to consider, all of which are confounded together into a mish mash that is, as theexpertisin says: absurd.

    1. people who want to move from one area to another within the same state OR in a new state but can’t because they can’t find a job in the new area

    2. people who want to move from one area to another within the same state OR in a new state but can’t because they own a residence and can’t sell it.

    3. people who want to move from one area to another within the same state OR in a new state but won’t because of family, relationships, etc.

    4. people who want to move from their state of birth to some other state but can’t because they own a residence and can’t sell it

    5. people who want to move from their state of birth to some other state but won’t

    6. people who had already moved from their states of birth to some other state and can’t move because they own a residence and can’t sell it

    7. people who had already moved from their states of birth to some other state and won’t move

    for starters.

    Florida says: “A smaller share of Americans moved last year that at any time on record, as I noted in a previous post.” which suggests an economic component to annual mobility–interstate and intrastate, that has absolutely no relationship to state of birth. “smaller share of Americans moved ” does not have anything, necessarily, to do with moving from state to state.

    Florida then goes on, somehow, with magical thinking,to believe that that necessarily has something to do with “Nearly six in ten Americans live in the state where they were born.”

    Incoherent farce. But in Ritholtzia, deep and accurate thinking.

    I salute you Ritholtzia!

    (Neither my wife nor I live in the states we were born in, nor in the states we lived in after those states, nor in the states after those, nor in the states after those. And we haven’t moved in several decades, although we could if we wished…and we are no where near as rich as Ritholtz, member of the 1% who supports OWS but is too….something…to proclaim his support for it anymore.)

  12. Theravadin says:

    It is interesting when you look at places like Michigan, though, and see apparent high immobility. What this chart really says is not that people are not leaving Michigan, but that people are not moving in. Therefore a high percentage of those that remain are natives. It would be much more illustrative to have a chart of the percentage of people from states living in other states. Bet that looks really different. After all, all those people who use to live in Detroit went somewhere…

  13. Mike in Nola says:

    I didn’t mean that immobility is solely due to social background. Here in the Houston area there is probably a great deal of immobility due to house prices, if for sale signs and house that keep going on and off the market is any measure.

    About the only thing that has keep this area from being worse than it is is that, when an oil company employee is transfered, the company buys the house if it can’t be sold. I have friends that were sent to Indonesia a couple of years ago when there neighborhood in a burb was full of foreclosures and for sale signs. Although the husband makes a good salary and they don’t really need it, they are going to make out very well when they come back and can pick up a cheap house.

  14. mathman says:

    Ever since his graduation from Drexel about 5 yrs ago, my youngest has had to travel to stay employed (in heart perfusion). He signed on to a large company that is buying its way into hospitals all over the country – so he started out in Tennessee (but his wife could not get a job, being a Yankee and all, in the telecom field where she was a manager up here in PA). They did that for a year then he got an opportunity to move back here and work at local hospitals close to his family and since then he’s worked in hospitals in DE (that he commuted to from his house here – big mistake buying the house) and Philly. Now he has an opportunity to work in CA or Houston in the New Year that he’s deciding on. He should rent until he becomes chief somewhere.

    So with this anecdote, home ownership isn’t a good idea, since his job is so fluid (opportunity). This probably is the case for that small section of the population employed in health-care (doctors and specialists specifically, but nurses that want to move should have no problem with job opportunities, but these people should probably resist the urge to buy until they “settle” their employment situation).
    Just sayin’.

  15. mathman says:

    Oh, i forgot to tack on this part:

    As opposed to his old man who moved 5 times throughout his life in the state, owning 3 houses in the process.

  16. willia451 says:

    The problem with the article is that it makes some assumptions that may or may not be valid. The biggest being there are a lot of folks out there that want to move to areas that have better job opportunities, but can’t; because of real estate issues.

    I think this assumption is over-stated. Its been my experience that folks will do whatever it takes to survive in the now. To include strategic default and bailing on their area if it comes down to it. Its much more likely that job opportunities, lucrative enough to entice a move, simply don’t exist; or are extremely rare.

  17. Greg0658 says:

    now having read the story and prelink (I expected more reading time needed) + these blogger additions:

    on 60% stays put in their home born region (me 20 miles) .. I returned from my college like stint (4ys being all I can be) the typical family lures stuck .. now I’m bedded down with stuff and in no mood to pack and venture off with the stuff in tow again (been there done that) even tho I probably should look for new horizons / but I’ve bought the dream – its paid for and with the info-net where is there a boom area that won’t be a bust once the Solyndra is built ..

    why I think others may be a 60% or not:
    1. the government or corporate position says go or stay (even overseas)
    2. the renting class can bounce if they are paid a salary in their current position that allows the stockup for the move + the advance networked info of success
    3. the artist class falls into 2 categories: a> travels to the workzone on a temp basis in a commune like setup once there b> gypsy like

    I see 1 and 3a as: usually need to earn enough to float 2 home bases

    so I’m thinking about a capitalist venture into sea-van mobile-home parks and stackable school classrooms .. “chase your dreams all around the world – pull your home & stuff along :-)” copyright 2011 TBP

  18. ssc says:

    BR, I did read the article before the post. I am not disputing that under water is a contributing factor, all I am saying is there is no evidence that it is significant, may be it is, but we have no data. The more important point is using number of native born still live in the same state as determinant of mobility is totally flawed.

    Quick examples, my aunt moved to the SF Bay in 1956, she’s now 80 years old and never lived outside of the Bay Area in the last 56 years, with the “native born” methodology, she would be “mobile” (not native born). My aunt’s daughter, born and raised in the Bay Area, married to somebody that was a senior executive for Cutters Lab, responsible for global operations. In 30 years or so, they have lived (for at least 2 years or more each place) in various part of Japan, Spain, Germany,…and 3-4 years ago they retired and moved back to the Bay Area, per census data, native born in native state, they would be one of the “stuck”. These are not isolated cases, there are not insignificant numbers of refugee clusters (Vietnamese in the 70s in Texas, California, Iranians in the 70s 80s in Bay Area and S Cal, Afghans in the 80s in Fremont, Ca..) that have set up roots and never gone anywhere for 30-40 years, all will be considered as “mobile”.

    In some ways, and I have no idea what the extend, rural area probably get short changed. I spent all my life in metro areas, until about 6 years ago, when I retired and moved to a rural area. I was a little surprised to meet many people that have worked all over the country (and the world) and moved back to their birth place. The methodology of using birth state as determinant will show that all these people being “stuck” in a poor rural area, which is very much false.

  19. dingojoe says:

    Dingojoe in NOLA

    New Orleans is very parochial, but the high rate for Louisiana and Mississippi is almost certainly poverty related. Not a native of NOLA, went to school in Texas (Ft. Worth) and have spent some time in Houston and while job prospects are and pretty much always have been better in Texas, but New Orleans is just a more fun place to live (provided you’ve got a job) and as long as I can handle the food booze, music, architecture(I live in an old house and as they say the only thing that works in an old house is the owner), and festivals. When I can’t I guess I’ll move back North, or maybe I’ll stay here and try to gracefully scale back.

    There is something to be said for mobility, I guess living in barracks in nowhere ND in god knows what below zero and taking part in the oil boom is better than starving, but there is something to be said for place and community.

    Also, while the focus of the article is on underwater housing trapping people, they are certainly a large chunk of people, in industry like construction who got trapped chasing opportunity and ended up in places like Vegas and Florida are still there, far away from any network of family and friends they may have had, without another boom to chase.

  20. drewburn says:

    I’m not sure I associate mobility with either affluence or poverty or desirable (growth-related) change. Poverty is a major motivation to move (look at movement in the Great Depression). Affluence I have to think is poorly related (the wealthy have their own reasons for declaring residency.) Natural growth of certain resource exploitation is understandable, as is the southerly movement of “snowbirds.” None of this, other than poverty-related migration has much real meaning to long term economics, does it?

    Migration to the latest-and-greatest tech center doesn’t seem a really long term phenomenon. Maybe it is, but it will always change rapidly.

    I would view longer term stability (non-migration), coupled with reasonable/stable, though no boom/bust, economic growth as more indicative of economic health. Perhaps I’m naive…..

  21. Joel50 says:

    States where people are described as being “stuck” statistically reflect not only out-migration but in-migration data. Low out-migration in theory could reflect residential contentedness, but unless accompanied by high in-migration — outsiders seeking that contented life — it probably doesn’t. Low in-migration suggests that there is probably not much economic opportunity in the state. Individual stories can always reflect something different, but the broad theme that Mr. Florida draws from this census data seems solid.

    Still, this is not a clean picture of haves and have-nots. Greater mobility may reflect economic vibrance and a more diversified and changing culture, but at the same time it can also reflect economic instability and vulnerability. High in-migration can help drive a housing bubble, and if things turn bad, these new residents may not have the family and community networks to mitigate the upheaval they face. The states themselves may not have built sufficient resources to address the needs of a burgeoning population suddenly in need. The four states that experienced the lion’s share of the housing bubble — Arizona, California, Florida and Nevada — all score relatively high on the mobility scale, with Nevada in a class by itself. California probably reflects issues largely unto itself. But the other three, particularly Arizona and Nevada, were likely cases where the economic opportunity that attracted outsiders proved mercurial. Conversely, the states with low mobility generally experienced little of the housing bubble.