August 31, 2009

Is it easier for the poor to up and move to a new place to take advantage of better opportunities?

Ilya Somin thinks that "contrary to conventional wisdom, 'voting with your feet' generally benefits the poor more than the relatively affluent."

It was easier for him when he was poor, anyway:
By contrast, my fiancee and I have recently moved into a new house a mere three miles away from my old condo. For me at least, this move has been more stressful than the previous five combined. Why? Because, due to my much higher pay since becoming a law professor, I now have many more possessions. The packing and unpacking have been a major pain, to put it mildly. Similarly, moving into a house required hiring contractors to do some work to get it ready, and dealing even with good contractors (like the ones recommended to us) is time-consuming and annoying, especially for people who are inexperienced with it. The process of selling the old home and purchasing a new one also requires an investment of time, effort, and money that people moving from one rental unit to another don't have to deal with.
Poverty has its privileges:



But you know, you can have money and not accumulate possessions. In fact, you'll have more money if you don't buy stuff. I'm sorry to point that out when I know we're in a recession in an economy that depends heavily on consumers enthusiastically purchasing things, but the truth is, you can live very simply, and it can be quite rewarding, emotionally and aesthetically. Keep it simple, and you will have more freedom: You can easily — as Ilya says — relocate; you have more of your money left to buy things if you ever do really want or need something; and you'll have less clutter to look at, worry about, maintain, and fuss over.

29 comments:

John said...

You missed it Ann. The headline for this should have been

"Freedom Just Another Word for Nothing Left to Lose".

AJ Lynch said...

I once heard Minnesota offered more generous welfare benefits than other states and this led to an influx of folks from Chicago and its environs. My purely anecdotal evidence seems to support Somyin's theory,

traditionalguy said...

The bigger the house the truer is the statement that you don't own it, but it owns you. Also the three year rule is good advice: If you have not opened and unpacked a moving box from the last move for three years since that move, then you should throw it out.

John said...

If you are truly broke, you can't move. It takes cash to get a place to live and to live until you find a job. Somin is like most professor types living in a bubble. There is a big difference between being a struggling new graduate and being really poor.

John Lynch said...

I don't know. My mother was an upper-class Peruvian. She got an American education and moved here pretty prepared for success.

She also has zero nostalgia for Peru. She became a US citizen as fast as possible and never went back for 40 years. I wonder if class matters when it comes to nostalgia for the old country?

Lem said...

If you have not opened and unpacked a moving box from the last move for three years since that move, then you should throw it out.

Not before checking for the Salvation Army.

Donna B. said...

Poppycock. Money makes tasks like moving much easier. Hire someone to pack it, load it, unload it. Though most moving companies don't furnish unpackers, I'm sure that could be paid for too.

AllenS said...

I have been living at my present location since 1973. I have stuff. I have a lot of stuff. 4 tractors, two cars, truck, various farm implements. Tools. Did I mention tools? I've got a lot of them, also. I want more stuff, a lot more stuff.

WV: spormag

I don't have one of those yet, but give me time.

Paul Zrimsek said...

If the salvation Army is lurking in one of my moving boxes, I'd just as soon not know about it. (rimshot)

PatHMV said...

That song should not be performed by people wearing tuxedos. This is a much better version.

Kurt said...

Well, I've opened a few of the boxes in the intervening years, but only to see what was in them, since I didn't remember. I suppose I should toss them in spite of their having been opened a few times!

With regard to Somin's idea, before I moved to the state where I live now (and where I subsequently bought a house), I resisted buying much in the way of furniture or anything that would be too hard to move. I had accumulated a lot of books, but little else of great worth. I resisted it simply because I wasn't happy with my job or the place where I was living and I wanted to keep my options open. Since moving here and buying the house, though, I have often felt a little stuck. My job is not bad, but I often wonder if I wouldn't rather be doing something else. But the stuff I've collected since buying the house--and more than that, the thought of having to put the house on the market in this market--makes the thought of moving difficult to contemplate.

k*thy said...

A friend of ours recently had a house fire. They said it helped them realize how much of their stuff they didn't actually need.

"Keep it simple, and you will have more freedom" From personal experience, this works on levels beyond material possessions.

bearbee said...

Poor and single or poor with family?

Moving for poor may not be so much about stuff but about costs - various deposits - utilities, rent, also any added cost of travel to work, shopping, child care expenses, etc.

Shanna said...

Similarly, moving into a house required hiring contractors to do some work to get it ready

Moving into a house does not always require hiring contractors.

I do think it is easier to move if you are renting, because you don't have to sell a house. But when you are renting, the cost of moving often includes first months rent and/or a security deposit, which took a little doing to get together when I was younger.

I hate moving, though, no matter how much stuff you have it always sucks. When I was moving often, I think the actual act of moving helped me keep things streamlined, because I threw stuff out that wasn't worth moving. Now that I've been in my house for years, I don't throw stuff out nearly as often as I should.

Largo said...

@traditionalguy

And if that box contains the video of your wedding? And if the other box contains your mint stamps that you were into collecting ten years ago, but fell away from

Not everything left in a box for three years is devoid of value, sentimental or otherwise.

Nonetheless, there is a grain of truth in the saying. Before the next move, open up that three year old box. Most of it you might want to trash.

traditionalguy said...

The move for a Baby Boomer today requires Construction site Dumpster be dropped along the side driveway for debris, and that a family of wise latina women be hired to pack up your stuff. The Latinas are wonderful, and they have relatives who can use most of the items you are dumping as old and useless.

michael farris said...

"By contrast, my fiancee and I have recently moved into a new house a mere three miles away from my old condo."

In what universe does this amount to "voting with his feet"?

Robert Cook said...

The guy is a typically overprivileged douchebag with too much money and no sense of the reality in which poor people must live.

holdfast said...

Obviously Somin means "student poor" vs "middle class money" (i.e. not that much).

Sure the truly wealthy can hire folks to do everything for them including wipe their arses - but I don't think Profs are making that kind of money yet.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

I have been living at my present location since 1973. I have stuff. I have a lot of stuff. 4 tractors, two cars, truck, various farm implements. Tools. Did I mention tools? I've got a lot of them, also. I want more stuff, a lot more stuff.


Are you related to my husband???

When we built our house we temporarily (6 months) lived in a workshop on the property. We boxed up everything except some clothing, a few household cooking utensiles and basically anything we didn't think we would need.

After 6 months and opening up the stored boxes, we realized that much of the 'stuff' we didn't miss and didn't need. Some of the 'stuff' was almost like we found new treasures...."Ohhh I forgot I had THAT" and we could look with new eyes and appreciation on the new found old stuff.

We had a HUGE garage sale. And of course proceded to fill up the space with NEW 'stuff'. So we are back to square one again. LOL

Joe said...

I hate moving, but have done it several times and always when I've been broke. I've learned that moving is difficult when you are dirt poor, but I've also learned you can do it if you are willing to make sacrifices (like throwing most of your shit away and being willing to sleep in a crappy motel or not at all and buying only enough food to survive and feed your children.)

I grew up in a large, middle-class house and dreamed of owning a home one day. I finally achieved that dream in the 90s and hated it. Having insane neighbors didn't help. Due to a stagnant market, getting out was hard.

One thing that has stuck with me, besides how much I truly hate yard work and freaking expensive it is to own a home, is that owning a house really cripples your mobility, though being emotionally attached to a place is a bigger impediment.

(A colleague recently bought a very nice house. His utility, taxes and yard expenses are more than the monthly rent on my townhouse. Yes, owning a home may build equity, but I'm continually astonished at how few people really examine the overall costs of owning a home.)

jacksonianlawyer said...

Did not anyone learn anything from:

Fish don't fry in the kitchen;
Beans don't burn on the grill.
Took a whole lotta tryin'
Just to get up that hill...

ricpic said...

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ricpic said...

The simple life is great...when you're ready for it. Like everything else in life, all the hectoring in the world won't make a person appreciate the simple life until he's ripe for it.

Reporting in from Estes Park, Colorado. Rocky Mountain National Park is AWESOME dude.

Pogo said...

""Is it easier for the poor to up and move to a new place to take advantage of better opportunities?"

Poverty is a mindset, not a bank balance. The Transiently Poor will do what needs to be done, including moving, to better their circumstances. That describes millions of hopeful immigrants to the US, who had only pennies and threadbare clothes when they arrived. The Permanently Poor will stay put, awaiting rescue. Poverty-style thinking is promulgated by state welfare, hence its rise in the US over the last 40 years.

Compare the citizen reactions to disaster, Katrina in New Orleans and flooding in Des Moines for a graphic example.

DenisEugeneSullivan said...

Greetings:

One of the concepts I remember from my Urban Economics studies is, what is (or was then) referred to as the "boundary externalities" of slum areas. The relatively nicest areas of slum is at their boundaries where there is greater access and proximity to non-slum areas. This is one of the dynamics that causes slum to spread.

kentuckyliz said...

Sure the poor move for better opportunities. Once their five years of lifetime allowance for welfare expires in one state, they move to the next state and start the clock over again.

Up and down highway 23 from where I live are several interlaced overlapping states...OH WV KY TN VA WV SC NC GA...without having to relocate very far any one time, that's 45 years of welfare right there.

LonewackoDotCom said...

I'm just hoping he takes Ariadne Huffanan up on her offer to blog at her site.

Dr. Cookie said...

Wow, there's so much evidence that this isn't true. Have you ever tried to move without having a deposit for an apartment? And even during the brain-dead mortgage broker years, the desperately poor were not offered loans to buy home.

It costs money to move.

But I agree that living simple is best. I so want to get rid of my big house and much of my stuff when my children go to college. Three years and counting....