Science Explains — What Happens if You Never Leave Your Hometown

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America was built on the concept of Manifest Destiny. We look up to the people who took big chances, who struck out on their own, who walked into the great unknown and came away with riches and happiness they couldn’t have imagined before they left. It took many forms – the immigrants that made their way across the ocean, the cultures that clashed in the bustle of New York City or Boston, the pioneers and cowboys who settled in the Wild West, and the prospectors who traversed treacherous country in search of gold – but we, as a people, idolized them all.

The idea that adventure, betterment, and success can only be found if one has the courage to leave home has been such a part of who we are as a country that the opposite – stagnation – has turned into a big, loser-y joke. We can all name half a dozen movie, television, or book characters off the top of our heads who are “townies” or “losers” or just plain lazy for not ever having left the town they grew up in, right?


But guess what? Recent scientific research shows that this is changing, and that it has been since the 1980s. From our aging parents (that huge Baby Boomer generation) to the tech boom that allowed for the emergence of the online job market, there are more than a few factors that go into whether or not you’re more or less likely to stick close to home these days. So let’s check out a few of them and see how they line up for you!

Where you grew up influences your personality.

That’s right – scientific research shows that people who grow up in densely populated areas of blue states are, for example, less likely to get married young. City kids also show a 21% higher tendency toward anxiety disorders. In addition, the growing political divide in the country is convincing people to stay home where they’re surrounded by like-minded thinkers – the opportunities in other places aren’t enough to convince people to change their lifestyles, in other words.

From the Journal of Economic Perspectives:

“The notion that one can pick up and move to a location that promises better opportunities has long been an important part of the American mystique. However, migration rates have been falling in the past several decades, calling into question the extent to which high rates of geographic mobility are still a distinguishing characteristic of the US economy.”

In addition, highly active personalities are more likely to move, and extroverts will migrate to urban locations with tons of social opportunities.

Basically, more Americans are deciding to stay put. 

Only 11.6% of the population moved between 2010 and 2011, which is the lowest rate of movement since such trends began being tracked in the 1940s. Young people do move more than older people, but generally not until after graduating from college, or maybe graduate school. It pays to stick nearby mom and dad when you need support, financial and otherwise…it’s also nice to see your mom any time you want to.

Where you were born could determine whether or not you ever leave.

People in the Midwest, for example, are highly likely to stick near home base. More than 70% of Midwesterners still live in the state where they were born, and half of the adults in this region never leave their hometown (which is a bit over the national average of 40%). Westerners balance this out, because only 30% of them choose to stay at home – with Californians being the most likely to move away from mom and dad.

So, what do you think? Is the research right? Did they predict whether or not you left your hometown based on these factors?

Mine was sort of right, but sort of not, because even though I’m a born and bred Midwesterner, I did leave the state for 4 years during college. But now I live 5 minutes from my parents and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Maybe that’s just called living the best of both worlds.

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