“Go West, young man.” Only four words, but that old phrase needs many updates. We’ve gone west, filled it up, and are generating ripples north, south, and east. As for ‘man’, it was also women and children throughout. Recently, it is the young that aren’t moving. Even before the Great Recession a divide was growing among the folks that remember a time when it was easy to move to better opportunities and folks who see barriers in housing, income, and stability that discourage going anywhere. The result is a decline in mobility from about 20% of the population moving in any year during the Baby Boom, down to about 15% in the late 1990s, to 13% in the early part of 200x, and now to 9.8%. The stagnation increases disparities between rich regions and poor regions, between optimism and pessimism, effectively reducing the dynamism America was noted for. The ‘Land of Opportunity’ may remain true, but only for those who already live in the right place or who have exercised opportunities enough to move by choice rather than necessity.
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