Friday, June 27, 2014

Traces of internal migration

Chad Orzel, in the midst of talking about rural poverty and the relative difficulties of moving from one region of the US to another, has an interesting note about a more modern migration:
This is a topic that’s relevant to my interests because of where I grew up, in a small town in central New York state, during a time when the local industries were all packing up and moving away. I’ve seen a lot of people struggle with this– when I was a kid, it was a rare year that we didn’t see a classmate or two move away as IBM (the biggest white-collar employer in the area) shifted most of its operations to North Carolina– they moved so many people from the Binghamton area down there that in the mid-90′s, you could find Salamida’s Spiedie Sauce in Food Lion supermarkets on the Outer Banks). And now, the high school classmates I’m in contact with on Facebook are spread over a huge range, many down South, but a lot still in the Broome County area.
I wonder if one of the differences between the corporate restructurings of the Nineties and the pharma layoffs of the 2000s was that the pharma jobs went to China, as opposed to moving within the United States?

I didn't know what a spiedie was, but I do now! (Sounds tasty.) 


  1. It's amazing how fast the demographics of America changed. I remember taking family trips down south on I-95 from PA as a kid in the 80s, and NC used to look like a third-world country. Today it's prosperous, and it's the rust-belt areas like upstate NY that look the way the South used to.

    A consequence is that chemistry jobs are much more spread out. Those jobs didn't just go to NC; they're scattered across the South (and Texas) - lose your job and you can either uproot your family again or leave the field, unless you're in a cluster area like Raleigh or Houston.

    The 1990s corporate restructurings were around the same time as the end of the days of stay-at-home moms. Now that 2-career families are the norm, people can't be expected to move at the drop of a hat anymore.

  2. Yeah, industry left upstate New York. It also left behind superfund pollution from companies like GE and Kodak. I moved to TX to get a job and I see the same Faustian decisions at play- very little environmental or safety regulation, oversight, and enforcement. Lower taxes but also less planning and spending for long term infrastructure needs. This attracts companies and brings money and jobs. Complain and be told take it or leave it and go back where you came from. You're replaceable. At some point though another state or country will drop the bar lower in terms of safety and taxes, the companies will pack up and leave, and TX will be left with the pollution, decaying infrastructure, and politicians who pimped out our resources to these companies. I don't know where I will stand when that time comes. Will I have enough money to get out and move on? Will I even want to by then? Will I end up dying in the same kind of sad has-been town that I couldn't wait to leave when I was growing up in the North? The Orzel piece is really good and I especially like the way he talks about the disconnect between reporters from the major cities and the less populated areas.