In my last post, I discussed "the brain drain," and what it can look like when young, educated people move away from their rural home communities, to never return. In this post, I'm addressing essentially the opposite effect: when we choose to leave the larger, more urban regions for smaller, more insular rural communities, do we do so especially because we are seeking homogeneity of beliefs and values on some level?
This NPR article certainly points towards the conclusion that in many instances, people do leave urban areas in search of people with "similar political stripes." The most oft-cited statistics about moving to, or back to, rural areas often include things like family needs, safety, and cost of living. A need for political affirmation and support from the surrounding community is certainly much harder to quantify, but perhaps that particular factor deserves our attention now more than ever.
More sinister than the search for political affirmation is something colloquially termed "white flight" wherein whites intentionally leave large cities for the "solace" of the suburbs, or rural communities, where they can depend on the community being largely of the same race.
As much of the nation found itself stunned after the events of November's election, there were certainly some pockets of the population that were decidedly less incredulous about the result. In communities where people of the same race and/or political creed make an active effort to band together, a certain homogeneity of opinion and voting behavior necessarily emerges, as an inherent result of so much "sameness." Rural communities generally do not reflect the larger population proportions, and once considered from that angle, something like the election outcome seems a little less "left field." To understand the direction our nation as a whole is headed in, it is important to understand the reasons for movement between big cities to ruralities, and vice versa. These patterns of migration, so to speak, deserve more than a passing glance.
However, it is also important to contextualize this "ruralization" movement as considered against the still-growing percentage of people who are migrating the opposite way, into the larger cities. The U.N. reports that today 54% of the world's population lives in urban areas, and that number is expected to increase to 66% as early as 2050. One professor of urban growth and population dynamics attributes the sustained trend of urbanization to "a multigenerational pattern of young adults preferring more expensive urban areas over lower-cost rural ones because the lifestyles and opportunities in such places make the extra burden of cost worth it."
The underlying reasons for the trickle of urbanites to rural regions, and vice versa, may vary widely from individual to individual. However, on a whole we can examine larger trends, such as the "white flight," that make the events of the last election cycle at least slightly more clear. Examination of these trends, and the reasons for them, is increasingly important in this highly-politicized climate we now find ourselves in.