Friday, September 11, 2009

Moving To Youngstown

Among those interested in returning to the Steel Valley there are lots of questions about where to live and how to manage the move. One of the issues concerns access to the amenities enjoyed at the current expatriate residence. That's a difficult riddle to solve. However, a better focus is on the opportunities that a Youngstown residence might provide. Some advice from a family who left the Mahoning Valley for Chicago:

Motivations vary from person to person and family to family, but often it's a mix of factors involving lifestyle choices, emotional comforts, health-care decisions and economic concerns. Thomas says her primary motivation was simple: "I was by myself too long." Having been widowed 13 years ago, she found herself living alone in her large Youngstown home, and each of her four daughters had left Ohio after graduating college. With two of her children settled in Chicago and another in Naperville, the choice to move here made sense.

"My kids wanted me to be by them in case I needed anything," she says. "Before, I saw my grandchildren two or three times a year. Now I see them, like, every other day. I go to their games. I'm part of their life now."

The move also provided an opportunity to downsize, which made economic sense. "I don't have to worry about taking care of the house and the grounds. I had a big Colonial house and an awful big yard in back," she continues. "I was paying taxes on it, and the upkeep . . . I'm better off here. It's cheaper."

I'm sure this tale of Youngstown out-migration strikes the reader as strange. But there are a couple of points worth emphasizing. First, extended families are trying to get back together. Wonderful if all your kids end up in the same place (more common than one might think), but the ties to mom and dad often encourage those who left to return home. There's an excess of large and inexpensive housing stock in the Rust Belt well suited to intergenerational living arrangements. The economics of boomerang migration could be a compelling value proposition if leveraged in the right way.

A second point is the matrilineal nature of diaspora communities and the return home. In most nations, women are seen as the bearers of culture. This is reflected in contemporary citizenship law. The typical tradition is that the men leave, but the women stay to maintain the thread with the past. If a couple from two different locales marries and looks to be near family after having kids, the woman's hometown usually wins.

In other words, keep track of where the women of Youngstown go.

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