The XX Factor

Home Is Where the Art Is

A guest post from Double X intern Polly Rosenwaike:

Last week Emily Bazelon wrote about people relocating in the recession . Some are moving to ply their trades in a more economically hospitable country , some to take advantage of their parents’ hospitality , some to escape expensive big cities. In the first quarter of 2009, only 21 percent of New York City area homes were affordable to a family making $64,000 to $69,000 a year-compare that to the more than 90 percent of homes affordable for families in the same income bracket in smaller cities like Indianapolis, Akron, and Grand Rapids.

But Emily also noted that more people are staying put in this recession than have during previous downturns. Homes in Akron may be affordable, but not if you can’t sell the house you have , or have to sell it for dramatically less than you paid for it. And it’s hard these days to find a new job anywhere, near or far.

What’s surprising is that New York, Los Angeles, and several other cities with populations well over a million-and very high costs of living-are among the places holding onto their residents in higher numbers than in recent years. Lane Wallace at the Atlantic suggests it might be psychologically easier to be unemployed in certain places: “Being laid off in New York or L.A. or Silicon Valley just means you’ve joined a well-populated club with a long and cherished tradition. Even if you don’t want to stay in that club forever, you don’t have to be embarrassed to be a part of it.”

It’s an interesting idea, but starving artist solidarity doesn’t explain the population retention and growth in Atlanta, Houston, and Dallas -not storied stomping grounds of the creative unemployed. How are people there managing to stick around? Is it just that things look pretty bad everywhere else, too? Or is there a unique shared heritage in these places-one just as strong as New York’s artistic community-that residents there are equally unwilling to give up?