James Coleman on Mobility
This is rather abstract, but it's very thought-provoking if you dig down and think about what's being said. It's from pages 19-21 of sociologist James Coleman's book Public and Private High Schools: The Impact of Communities:
The destruction of the functional communities within which families live and children grow up is a destruction in which the prime mover is technological change, but in which the intermediate actors have played an important part as well. One of these actors is the family itself. Families make decisions which, taken individually, benefit the family, but at a small cost to others. When enough families make such a decision the combined costs are hamrful to all. For example, a family decides to leave a community because of a better job offer elsewhere or becuase of a promotion and transfer. Each of the other members of the community experiences a small loss, because the cycles of intergenerational closure involving that family are broken and because the family's contribution to community activities and community norms are withdrawn. These ruptures will be repaired after the family is replaced by a new one, but repairs take a period of time.This is a collective action problem, and the usual solution would be governmental regulation. So how about it? Should there be governmental restrictions on whether you can move to another city?
All this does not create a problem, up to a point. But when the rate of such mobility is high, . . . then there comes a point when this high rate imposes costs on each member of the community that exceed the benefits of moving, even for the movers. The high rate means that the cycles of intergenerational closure are in a continual state of disrepair, and the norms and community activities remain in a continually weakened or disrupted state. Thus at the extreme, we may find each family with higher income, yet worse off than before, because of the loss of community resources resulting from the decisions of each. Yet it would be unwise for a family not to move as long as that move is beneficial to the family. . . . [T]hese moves, each beneficial to the mover, make everyone worse off.
There is a second point in the rate of movement, one in which each family's chance of imminent movement is sufficiently great that the investment in connections in the new community is unprofitable to the family,. "Putting down roots is not worth it," is the common expression . . . . When the community consists of such highly mobile families, then it is weakened on two counts: by its own high rate of turnover and by the high proportion of these mobile families whose prospective moves keep them detached from the community.
We have used this example of moving decisions as an illustration of the more general process. The decision need not be a moving decision. It may be a decision of the father to take a job outside the local neighborhood, or a decision by the mother to leave the household and her community activities and go to work. These are decisions driven by technological change and by the desire for economic gain, and the specific decision may be a correct one from the point of view of the individual or the family making the decision. But each individual and each family is a resource to the community, and decisions which withdraw these resources from the community are decisions which make the community a less valuable resource for its members. . . .
It is in this way that family decisions often destroy the value of a community for socializing children.