October 31, 2014

Extended family contact by transplant vs. native residency

In an earlier post on differing levels of contact with extended family across regions, I stated that one factor underlying the pattern was the differing levels of being a transplant to the region, which would cut down on how often you keep in contact with family back home.

How much less contact do transplants actually have with their families? I looked at levels of contact with three different types of extended family groups for both natives and transplants. Racial groups have different patterns of migration and family contact, but it turned out not to affect the split between natives and transplants in level of extended family contact. So I left all races in.

Here's the breakdown for whether they've been in contact with the following groups during the past four weeks (among those who have living relatives of the type):

Cousins -- 50% of natives, 40% of transplants

Uncles and aunts -- 53% of natives, 40% of transplants

Nieces and nephews -- 70% of natives, 52% of transplants

Remember that the questions don't specify whether you kept in contact by meeting face to face, or by writing or calling. With nearly half of transplants saying they kept in contact with these groups as recently as the past four weeks, despite probably not living nearby, a good deal of those respondents took it to include mediated contact.

These results understate the difference in levels of face-to-face contact, which could be closer to zero for transplants, if it's already this low for mediated contact.

It's easy to blame technology for isolating us from those who we ought to be in contact with, especially in person. But here we see a vivid reminder of how simple it is to sever the ties to your extended family -- just move away, or perhaps they will. As long as the split is not acrimonious -- you're just leaving to better yourself -- no one will be bitter about the diluted and fragmented family web. It'll be one of those things that just happen, mysteriously and uncontrollably.

I don't see things changing course due to a change in attitudes toward family ties. There's too strong of an impulse toward self-enhancement, rather than maintenance and enhancement of everything else that made you.

But we may not have to wait for a change in attitudes. There's more than one way to keep people from moving away -- saturated real estate and job markets, and general lack of preparation for life after collage (where they goofed off for four years) among Millennials. "Boomerang kids" who live at home well into their 20s and 30s are becoming more of a reality, and reversing the trend of being a transplant during one's 20s.

They'll be in contact with their extended family more than earlier generations during that stage of life, whether they like it or not.

GSS variables: cousins, uncaunts, niecenep, regtrans (created from region and reg16)


  1. how do you think future regional areas will break down? by accent, sports team, etc?

    maybe something like this:

  2. Fun map. I like how the Stillers are the de facto team of Appalachia. Western PA, eastern OH, West Virginia, southwestern Virginia, and here and there throughout Kentucky.

    They should re-brand them as the Appalachian Ridge Runners. Or simply Deh Stillers.


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