It’s Thanksgiving weekend, and each year people travel home or to visit relatives and friends. Despite a worldwide pandemic, this year is no different, with an estimated 50 million people are traveling by air. While the pandemic portion of the scenario is a topic for another day, what struck Mister Boomer about holiday travel was how many people live far enough away from their childhood homes that they need to take a plane to get there.
Boomers weren’t the first migratory generation by a longshot, but circumstances combined during the boomer years to facilitate moving from one state to another. In fact, state-to-state migration has been happening since there were states. Patterns of this migration follow exactly what you might expect — people moved where the jobs were plentiful. According to U.S. Census data, the majority of people migrating from one state to another between 1930 and 1940 were moving from the mostly rural center of the country outward toward the coasts, where larger cities were located. Between 1940 and 1950, the move outward to the coasts continued, but people also moved to the upper Midwest, where numerous factories had been located. This trend continued between 1950 and 1960.
Between 1960 and 1970, when boomers — the generation with the highest population — began reaching the age of adulthood, migration patterns began to reverse, moving outward from the larger population areas. Some call it a “back to the land” migration, but the data suggests that opportunities for a better career and/or life were the major reasons for migratory moves. As technology replaced manufacturing as a major engine of the economy in the 1980s, boomers in the prime of their careers could pick up and go to the jobs they were offered, in some cases leaving one migratory state for another.
Compared to previous generations, when the twentieth century rolled around, more boomer men and women went to college. Many boomers will tell you they were the first in their families to attend college, and many of them got their education in another state. After college, some boomers chose to stay in the area, or moved to other states for job opportunities.
Boomers also had personal transportation. In the 1950s, the Ford Motor Company saw the advantage of advertising the sale of two cars for a family, so the housewife had a way to shop and run errands while her husband was at work. Some of those second cars became the first cars for young boomers. (Mister Boomer was raised in an area where no family had more than one car, until boomers reached driving age.) At that point, used cars were plentiful and cheap. Boomers could buy and maintain their own vehicle (or with parental assistance) so they could drive to jobs or college.
A third circumstance that facilitated an easy migration from state-to-state was the completion of the Interstate Highway System in the early 1960s. To sum up the reasons why boomers were able to easily migrate to other states:
• Personal transportation was readily available
• Road travel was simplified by a new highway system
• To pursue higher education
• To pursue job and career opportunities
In terms of migration, Mister Boomer and his siblings may or may not be typical of the Boomer Generation. Mister B grew up with a large extended family that lived fairly close to one another; some aunts and uncles lived within blocks of each other throughout their lives. Yet as cousins grew up and attended college, were drafted into the Army or pursued other opportunities, several began moving away, including Mister B and his siblings. Currently Mister B and his two siblings live in three different states, none of which are the state in which they were all born.
How about you, boomers? Did you leave your home state for greener pastures and now go home for the holidays? Are your children living out of state and coming home to see you?