Where Americans Go When They're Down and Out

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Because the family’s crops choked in the Dust Bowl, the Joads defaulted on their loans and watched as the bank repossessed their homestead–so begins John Steinbeck’s classic novel The Grapes of Wrath. Following their dreams, their desperation, and a steady stream of equally down-trodden farmers, the Joads left Oklahoma for a new, uncertain life in California.

The promise of a decent job–or at least a decent chance at one–can push families across the country. So where do we go when the economy has thrown us a few stiff jabs?

2008 was a tumultuous year–undoubtedly because of the popped real-estate bubble, the hyperventilating automobile industry and general economic hysteria. Forbes has turned new IRS data into a distracting map that plots where people moved in 2008 and the average amount of money they made that year.

The map plots when people are leaving a county with red lines, with thicker lines signifying a stronger net migration. And as you might expect, Detroit looks like an open wound in the middle of the country. People also escaped Miami and Los Angeles, places where the housing crisis was most severe.

It turns out, the Pacific Northwest is a people-magnet–particularly, Seattle. Dallas, Houston and Austin, Texas drew enough people to possibly warrant four additional seats in Congress for Texas, according toThe New Republic.

Back home in Minneapolis, we had fairly balanced inward and outward migration, as well as interesting income redistribution.  For example, 93 people moved from Broward County, Fla. (home of Fort Lauderdale) to Hennepin County (Minneapolis) and their average income was $63,000. On the other hand, 76 people moved from Minneapolis to Broward County, but their average income was $33,700. At the same time, 715 people left Minneapolis for Maricopa County, Ariz. (Phoenix-area) with an average income of $160,000–the 492 who made the opposite journey averaged a $55,700 income.

Sources: Forbes, The New Repbulic

Image from The Grapes of Wrath trailer, in the public domain.

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