Richard Florida
by Richard Florida
Wed Apr 22nd 2009 at 5:54pm UTC

Mobility and the Reset

Fewer Americans are moving than at any point in the past six decades (since the Census Bureau started tracking mobility). Fewer than 12 percent (11.9 percent) of Americans moved in 2008 compared to more than 20 percent in 1984-85. This is the result of the economic crisis and the housing slump which has essentially locked Americans in place. Brookings Institution demographer William Frey told the The New York Times:

“It represents a perfect storm halting migration at all levels, since it involves deterrents in local housing-related moves and longer distance employment-related moves. … [T]he U.S. population, often thought of as the most mobile in the developed world, seems to have been stopped dead in its tracks due to a confluence of constraints posed by a tough economic spell.”

The Economist makes much the same point arguing that housing has turned from “shelter” to “burden” – noting that “the social benefits of home ownership look more modest than they did and the economic costs much higher.”

The Census Bureau also reports that foreign immigration to America is down to its lowest point in more than a decade. Quite a devastating double whammy for the U.S. economy which draws considerable strength from labor mobility and inflows of foreign talent.

Economic recovery will turn on restoring both.

2 Responses to “Mobility and the Reset”

  1. Chihiro Says:

    I understand that the US government needs to protect the job for Americans but its immigration policy has been too strict in my opinion. I see many talented classmates gave up on receiving a green card in the US and came to Canada, which has drastically improved its policy last year in retaining the foreign talents.

    “Under the old rules, a foreign post-graduate student had only 90 days after graduation to find a job which was in their field of the degree which they studied. Now International students can obtain a work permit to remain in Canada for three years without any restrictions on the kind of employment they choose” (source:

    This is an awesome improvement. However, the Canadian job market is much smaller than what it appears to many international students, and many realize this fact only after they move to Canada. Having lived in both the US and Canada, I received an impression that the job hunting in Canada is much more competitive than that of the US even after considering the current economic turmoil and the type of job that I was looking for. One must be very smart to get a decent job in Canada while the same person could get a much better job in the US.

    I am sure that the recent policy change in Canada is a big improvement that may help drive the Canadian economy in the future but there are other tougher hurdles yet to consider.

  2. Vishal Sharma Says:

    It is catch 22. US has had the history of mobile population that has allowed flow of resources (people and their money) within the economy. I would imagine that helped the overall economy in turn. Because movement of people from affected region would reduce demand pressures on the economy, prices could be stabilized and unemployment would reduce simply because the no. of jobs better matches the population.
    The same needs exists today, but people aren’t moving which makes it harder to revive the economy. That’s the dilemma.

    Immigration certainly plays a role. I wonder if 10 yrs down the line we’ll see the flatter world of today get flatter in terms of not only information flow, but people flow as well.