Housing Complex

D.C.’s a Transient Place–And That’s A Good Sign

America has a "stuck belt" around its midsection. (Map by the Martin Prosperity Institute)

Yesterday, the Examiner looked at Census data showing that comparatively few residents of the District and surrounding counties were born where they live. While acknowledging the benefits of having a clean slate once you move here, the overall tone was pretty mopey: There's no hometown pride for sports teams! It's hard to get people interested in local politics! Communities don't trust people who've only been around a few years!

But the Washington area should be awfully glad the transience numbers don't run the other way. Rock star urbanist Richard Florida (yeah, yeah, yeah) has long hammered on the benefits of mobility, and the latest data have only led him to double down on the thesis, characterizing states as either "stuck" or "unstuck." Running the numbers against other demographic indicators, he finds that transience is positively correlated with diversity, lower poverty rates, better education, higher income, less smoking and obesity, and more happiness. (Interestingly, though, there's apparently no correlation between transience and employment, which is hard to explain in the Floridian paradigm—people are supposed to move to opportunity, not just for the hell of it).

Of course, the usual scientific caveat applies: It's hard to say that these transient states are more happy because people have moved in and out of them. It's just as likely that having that kind of cultural capital is also what allows them to pick up and make a life somewhere else. Regardless, having lots of people born somewhere else should be viewed as an indicator of regional health, even if we don't all root for the Redskins.

Comments

  1. #1

    (Interestingly, though, there's apparently no correlation between transience and employment, which is hard to explain in the Floridian paradigm—people are supposed to move to opportunity, not just for the hell of it).

    My understanding of the theory is that the creatives move to either be closer to a) jobs or b) potential life partners and that the importance of finding a mate sometimes trumps the importance of finding a job. So it might be more than just "for the hell of it" after all.

  2. #2

    I've said it before, and I'll say it again. These numbers have little to do with transience. Where you're born may have some bearing on whether or not you've been there for a while, but only if you're under 5 years old. For those of use who are over 20, the only way to measure transience is to measure how long someone has lived in an area. I'll repeat, transience does *not* equate to where one is born, only how long one has lived within one jurisdiction or metropolitan area.

    I'm still waiting for a journalist in this area to make this correction, since apparently they're all playing sociologist/demographer today/yesterday.

    I'm also still waiting for Census numbers to be taken out to show the average length of habitation in all these "transient" jurisdictions.

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