December 22, 2014

What matters in life to transplants vs. natives

Is moving away from the region of your upbringing driven more by career chasing or by starting a new identity, unfettered by the ties of the past?

The General Social Survey asks a series of questions about how important various aspects of life are to you. Let's compare people who have remained in the Census region they grew up in with those who live in an entirely different region (not just moving to the nearest city). Only white respondents have been counted, to remove race as a factor. Education levels differ between natives and upwardly mobile transplants, but they didn't affect the big picture here, so I left it out as a control variable.

Across all seven aspects of life that were asked about, natives were more likely to rate them "very important," although some showed a larger gap than others. The native-transplant gap is shown in percentage points in the list below, where the aspects of life are ranked from those with the narrowest gap to those with the largest gap.

Gap, Aspect of life

1, Politics and public life

2, Family and children (nuclear family)

2, Career and work

5, Free time and relaxation

7, Relatives (extended family)

8, Religion and church

12, Friends and acquaintances

I don't know how an ordinary person would interpret "politics and public life," but it doesn't differ much in importance to the two groups.

Neither does the importance of the nuclear family. However, the importance of the extended family shows a much larger gap.

Work doesn't show a huge gap, when you might have expected the transplants to be much more gung-ho about their career. They do seem to value long hours and getting lost in their job, though, as the gap widens for the importance of free time for having a life.

The largest gaps in importance are found for communal ties to genetic strangers -- church, and friends and acquaintances.

The main difference in what drives transplants appears to be a desire to cut themselves free from a dense, rich social network -- i.e. the one that they were integrated into wherever they grew up. They look the closest to natives when it comes to how much they value their marriage and children, but that's as far as it goes. They're less worried about their extended family playing a role in their lives, and they're even less concerned with links outside the family.

So, the transplant phenomenon is not so much about chasing an ever more high-status career, but simply about liberating yourself (as they would see it) from your family and community. Being part of at most an isolated nuclear unit, and nothing further, is a feature not a bug of transplant living.

Ultimately this boils down to the desire to not be held accountable to anyone else, to be free to indulge in whatever you want to. And not only in the sense of having a far dimmer spotlight of judgment being cast on your behavior, and therefore not feeling as much shame. But in the broader sense of not having any duties and responsibilities to fulfill toward others. Sure frees up more time to focus on yourself. Just think of how tied-down you'd be with duties if you still lived near your relatives and folks-you-know.

Of course, a transplant is only too willing to enjoy the benefits of the communal ties that, over the generations of natives who stayed put there, have built up the cultural integrity of whatever region he's moved to. He just doesn't want to contribute back to his adoptive culture. He may not even be a transient -- perhaps he plans to stay there for the rest of his life. He is more properly described as a social-cultural parasite.

Naturally there are degrees of variation among transplants, some being relatively benign and others being flagrant bloodsuckers and bite-the-hand-that-feed-ers. But it's important to emphasize the common desire to leave behind their rich social ties, in order to understand how the churn of inter-regional migration fragments communal bonds, both in the left-behind and the moved-into regions.

GSS variables: imppol, impfam, impwork, imprelax, impkin, impchurh, impfrend, regtrans, race


  1. The main difference in what drives transplants appears to be a desire to cut themselves free from a dense, rich social network -- i.e. the one that they were integrated into wherever they grew up.

    what about the opposite idea that transplants simply were born into less of an extended family and perhaps have less ability to create friendships, so feel more "free" (I guess) to move? you could see on the GSS if they have fewer siblings (question sibs). extended family size drops with family size. not sure about other variables.

    also, what do you think about stuff like this that shows falling internal migration in the USA? - what are the numbers on this in your opinion?

    or - " internal U.S. migration seems to have reached an inflection point around 1980." (an inflection point downwards towards less of it). Internal migration seems to be pretty much dropping at every scale.

  2. I mean, my impression would be that times with lower absolute levels of international migration (typically falling inequality within nation) consequently have higher levels of internal migration because of stronger internal incentives (like the "dustbowl migrants" in the midcentury US if I understand correctly).

  3. Again, not knowing how to get a hold of you, in case you missed this, here is a dandy that was linked to Drudge. As a divorced Gen Xer young enough to date them, I'm finding American Millennial girls so uninviting as to be almost off limits. Happily things are radically different in Europe.

    Dec 23, 4:11 PM EST
    Helicoptering? Parents go with kids to college
    Associated Press

  4. "you could see on the GSS if they have fewer siblings (question sibs)."

    Or you could. (Not being snarky, but trying to prod Millennials into putting in some elbow grease.)

    Transplants and natives have about the same number of siblings. If anything, a slightly higher average number of sibs for transplants at lower and middle education levels, and no diff at high levels.

    Think about it historically -- the Baby Boomers came from gigantic families that had fairly deep roots, but they did everything they could to get the hell out of their hometown and make a name for themselves somewhere higher up on the urban chain.

    The migration stats you point to are measuring something different -- year-to-year shifts from one place to another. The transplant variable I made is measuring rootedness in a region -- are you now living in the same region you were at age 16, or are you somewhere else? All it takes is one crossing of state borders per lifetime to tear you up from your roots.

    Rootedness shows a different time trend -- more rootedness in egalitarian times, less rootedness in status-striving times. The Upshot had a long article with graphs for each of the 50 American states, each showing what percent of the state's residents had been born there, from circa 1900 to present.

    The spatial pattern maps onto individual striving vs. accommodating others as well. The frontier and further out west have been rootless for a long time, all the way back to the Gilded Age settlers. Most of those frontiersmen were just looking for a get-rich-quick scheme, and were willing to shift over to wherever looked promising at the moment.

    In most places, they aren't getting any more rooted over time either, as though those states were just late to the game. Some of the Mountain states have been getting better over time -- Utah has for sure, the roots being the Mormon founders, who were not Wild West / Gold Rush types, but a religious sect that wanted to settle down where they wouldn't be persecuted. Although who knows with all the West Coast refugees and Mexicans pouring in. Idaho and Montana are slowly getting more rooted too. California might have gone that way if they hadn't let in millions of Mexicans. But then you have places like Nevada and Alaska where no one has ever settled down, and 80% or more have always come from some other state.

    This once-in-a-lifetime change from where you grew up to where you're adopting, is distinct from year-to-year moving around. It's like asking whether the language you speak now is your native tongue or one you adopted in adulthood.

    Looking at year-to-year migration doesn't reveal very much about rootedness. It would be like measuring how many people switch languages each year. It doesn't get at the native vs. adopted distinction.

  5. Millennial girls are almost as emotionally awkward and objectifying toward the opposite sex, as the guys are.

    They tend not to develop crushes on specific individuals for reasons specific to that individual, as a first stage toward long-term pair-bonding.

    It's more like a fleeting crush on Case #312 of a generic type, and they're "in love with the idea of" the type, rather than the individual. They refer to him among their friends in generic, identity-less terms like Random Hot Guy, Starbucks Guy, 80s Night Guy, PoliSci Guy, Checkout Counter Guy, Tall Skinny Skater Guy, etc.

    They're obviously not going to pair-bond with him, but move from one example to another of "their type."

    Assuming they act at all, of course -- Millennials have had way less sex, less dating, less anything, at all ages, compared to Boomers and X-ers at those ages in earlier, more free-wheeling times.

    I'm just saying, when they do get involved with each other, it is unlikely to feel like the prelude to a pair-bond, but rather two unattached hedonists who have found a member of the opposite sex who will get them off or make them feel special and loved for a few weeks or months, before moving on to a new quid pro quo relationship with another example of the same type.

    Now, with the guys, you might suspect that a lifetime of internet porn has screwed up their brains, which it very well may have. But what about the girls who turn out just as emotionally retarded, just as objectifying, and just as incapable of bonding with a specific individual rather than looking for examples of their type?

    It has to be something that both guys and girls went through for a long time during development, which points to cocooning and helicopter parenting. They don't appreciate that someone of the opposite sex is a unique individual and not just an instance of a type.

    Having never really interacted with real people in real life, but only observed them from a distance, all they can appreciate is statistical tendencies of groups of individuals. And even then only at a superficial level, not so much how people behave (Millennials do not get this at all). So they have a very finely honed awareness of what their visual type is, and maybe what generic social clique or scene he is a part of, but that's it.

  6. What about long distance marriages?

    I know people who have done this even when there are children in the family.

    One woman I know moved from SF to Chicago so that she could go to graduate school. She and her husband would visit every other weekend. Then she went to graduate school again in Boston. I don't know what the visiting schedule is now.

    I know two other women whose husbands have jobs in the Middle East. One woman has to travel for work and leaves her children with the grandparents.

    All these people have plenty of money.

  7. agnostic Or you could. (Not being snarky, but trying to prod Millennials into putting in some elbow grease.)

    Usually I would, not because I'm particularly hard working, but the GSS is easy to use and I'm impatient to wait. Yesterday I was off out to see my brother, so didn't get the chance.

    The migration stats you point to are measuring something different -- year-to-year shifts from one place to another. The transplant variable I made is measuring rootedness in a region -- are you now living in the same region you were at age 16, or are you somewhere else?

    Makes sense. That makes sense as an idea distinguishing "transplantation" from internal migration. Fits with what we see outside on the street. Today isn't an era of noticeable number of highly mobile native born itinerants moving every year seeking to earn a living*. That "niche" is filled by cheaper international migrants. But it is an era where a more homogenized national culture, success striving and weaker local ties allows and encourages more people settle far from their birth, to backwaters and boomtowns and big lights to chase success, typically after college. Once they have moved they're often entrenched and done with moving, so long as the local competition isn't too intense (if it is then move again).

    *itinerant natives a la early Midcentury low skill laborers moving around the US from job to job (the kind of lifestyle the song The Boxer tries to evoke or the main characters in Of Mice and Men and so on).

  8. agnostic:

    Although looking at these graphs, a lot of them still seem to show ramp ups during the egalitarian Midcentury.

  9. Had a quick look around with the regtrans variable.

    With religid, switched, kid, I could see that they were more likely to be fundamentalist and less likely to be raised protestant compared to natives to region, more likely to be catholic.

    But it seemed that this differences disappeared when looking at only the American born subset of regtrans (variable born), with transplants only remaining more likely to be raised Jewish.

    Obviously a lot of the people picked up as transplants without filtering for White race and American born are White Hispanic Catholics. So I just filtered for American born from then on. Non-American born are around 18% of the White transplants and 2% of the White natives.

    However, switched (switching religion) seemed to remain significant as a difference (transplants more likely to have switched religion).

    Transplants had no Wordsum and education advantage when including non-natives to the US (a wider distribution, but no advantage), and a bit more of a Wordsum and education advantage when non-natives were sifted out.

    For the rest: They were not statistically more or less likely to have attended religious services in the past week (attrelig). Divorce is more likely, but also more likely to have been married at all (transplanted have essentially the same ratio of divorcees to marrieds than natives). More likely to have a large number of children.

    There are some variables as well on how likely a person is to contact their relatives (COUSINS, UNCAUNTS, NIECENEP, PARSLAW, TRANSREL, SIBINLAW), where the transplant is less likely to contact the relative. Same with the socrel question for socialising with relatives with strong differences again. Same with socialising with parents and siblings. Weaker differences in the other socialising variables. They were also slightly less likely to socialise with friends daily. Socialising with neighbors (soccommun) seemed to show transplants being generally more sociable overall, with less socialising only in daily socialising with neighbors and only very low differentiation there. Less likely to hang out at bars, despite being more likely to drink. With these variables they weren't very likely to say they lacked family members, showing they don't really tend to have much smaller extended families, although they may well have weaker ones to begin with.

    Transplants reported higher levels of the trust variable, regarding people as helpful and fair. Transplants were less likely to have ever been to jail. Transplants were more likely to be in the infrequent categories of very low satisfaction with family life with little differences in the more frequent categories (I guess despite being more married and having more kids). Transplants seem more likely to identify with political extremes. More likely to identify as middle class and upper class than lower class. More likely to classify their family income as above average, more likely to feel they can get a new job easily, more likely to have been unemployed. No real differences in self employment status, more likely to be government employees. Transplants seem more likely to be military people with more service in the army on average, for White American born. Most of the questions about what is desired in a job don't show much, except the transplants rate all the desired qualities in a job in the middle of the scale, whether they're self interested or other motivated.

    Transplants are more likely to carry out charity work at all scales (volchrty). There are quite a few membership variables (mem-) and generally the transplants seem to show higher levels of membership.

    Lots of these seem to show stronger differentiation compared to the importance questions?

  10. "Although looking at these graphs, a lot of them still seem to show ramp ups during the egalitarian Midcentury."

    They must have added a toggle between "born in" and "moved to." I'm talking about the "born in" (rooted in) graphs, which you now have to click on a button to reveal. The "moved out of" graphs are the default (internal migration).

  11. Thanks for replying. What you say is true and observant. I have found that once in a relationship (which used to be called a love affair), they remain very guarded and distant. Younger kids are obsessed with not appearing weak or needy, when in fact that is precisely what they are. They are shocked at my candor. But I do not blame them exclusively; the general culture has put a premium on this.

    Anyway, great website.

  12. something i've noticed is boomers are inheriting property from their silent gen parents, and moving back to their hometowns or home region. as you pointed out, the silent gen. made a lot of money - they seem to have held onto property also.


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