Increase American Mobility

Solution To Poverty

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Mobility is more than just a metaphor for getting ahead.  In America, it has been a solution to economic and social barriers.                                                                                         –Arthur C. Brooks, American Enterprise Institute

If you think people are less rooted today than their American predecessors, you’re wrong.  Americans are less geographically mobile today than at any point since 1948, U.S. Census data reveals. Maybe this is one reason why our country is having such a tough time economically advancing.

Our ancestors came to this land not for the fine cuisine, vacation opportunities, or retirement benefits but in search of opportunity to work hard and get ahead.  Migrating to economic opportunity has long been seen as a key to self-improvement.  In the mid-1960s, about 20 percent of the population moved in a given year, reports the U.S. Census Bureau.  By 1990, it was approaching 15 percent.  Today it’s closer to 10 percent.

Notably, some of us who would seem poised to gain the most from moving appear to be the least mobile.  We could assume movement from a high-unemployment state like Mississippi, 6.3 percent, to a low-unemployment state like Utah, 3.4 percent.  Instead, according to Arthur C. Brooks, quoted above, “Mississippians are even less likely to migrate out of the state today than they were before the Great Recession hit.”

“The mobility decline has actually been the most pronounced among millennials. As the first rungs of the economic ladder became more slippery, young adults began to delay major steps into adulthood and became less likely to relocate for college or careers,” Brooks concludes.  “Meanwhile, older adults have faced their own headwinds, including a housing crisis that anchored them to their devalued homes and a safety net that ties recipients to their states.”

How do we solve the immobility challenge?  First, our national social safety net should not anchor people to struggling communities.  We need “relocation allowances,” Brooks suggests.  We need to reshape education to prepare people to move where the new good jobs are.  This requires community and applied tech colleges to greater collaborate with businesses in providing training for 21st Century jobs–“important, interesting, dignified work that is difficult to outsource.”  Finally, “we need leaders who extol the American spirit of courage, adventure, optimism and the willingness to break from the moribund past.  Instead of vowing to insulate Americans from economic trends, out leaders should encourage, as did Alexis de Tocquevile in 1835, change as the natural state of man,” Brooks urges.

Horizonte, Salt Lake City School District’s alternative high school and adult education center, does just that and provides privately funded applied tech and college scholarships to assist qualifying students reach their educational-career goals.