Jobs in small towns

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Jobs in small towns

Post by manatee2005 »


When I go on road trips I pass these towns with only 100-1000 people, they're everywhere in the country. I get that there's usually a factory, a mine or a steel mill that keeps the town alive. But if you're not working for the main employer in the town, for example if somebody is working at a grocery store in one of those small towns why don't they move to a big city where jobs are plentiful?
This has been a big question of mine every time I go on those road trips.

I just learned that I have some distant family in those small towns in Michigan and Indiana. I'm trying to understand their decision to not move to a big city. I looked up the condition of their houses on google street view and they're in pretty bad condition. I have no idea what they'll do for retirement.

I want to emphasize that I am not putting down small town living. I am just trying to understand what is the motivation for someone not to move to a big city where income potential is greater.

I'd love to get some input from people who've spent their working years in small towns.

Thank you.
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Re: Jobs in small towns

Post by StealthRabbit »

I spent my working yrs avoiding commute traffic and parking lots.

Small towns help meet that goal.

For retirement I insisted on being in a county without a stoplight (Success)

Jobs (?)... varies, but it helps if you are creative and can do a LOT of variety! Our pastor is a bulldozer driver and undertaker (a handy combination), Music leader is a professional rodeo rider and Deputy Sheriff. Most of us can do or build about anything (from scratch with few available materials). I have mastered many skillsets, and have (5) college degrees (but who's counting) Only the OUTPUT / results matter. (I was able to FIRE leave employment before age 50). But I worked much away from the small towns. Except weekends I did trucking through many small towns! (863 miles / day, often in the snow). I grew up in a pretty small town (population 5), we had left a bigger town when I was age 5 (381). Fond memories and learning's (country school was great... going to town (12,000) for HS was a terrible waste of daylight and time)

Income is not so important... we get by. (lots of sharing and bartering economy) Volunteering is pretty big in a small town. My grandpa taught me to use Saturdays to assist widows, I recently showed my adult kids a set of concrete steps, ramps and rails I helped to build / pour in 1965. Still had my autograph, and are still used several times / day for over 50 yrs.

Small towns are just a way of life, and all kinds live there. Professors, scientists, bankers, barbers, engineers, librarians, nurses, normal people.

I really like stories about small towns, and remember well the 17 YO kid who "SAVED" the community grocery store and got a loan (at age 17) from the community and county to do so. He closed on Weds afternoons so he could deliver produce and groceries to old and disabled people who were not able to drive to town for groceries. By age 21 he owned 5 rural grocery stores.

BTW, I last watched a TV show in 1968. Haven't had time or desire to do so since.
Last edited by StealthRabbit on Tue Jan 14, 2020 2:15 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Jobs in small towns

Post by ScubaHogg »

Social network, familiarity, maybe their potential income advantage in a larger city isn’t that great. Some people don’t like crowds, would prefer a house in “bad condition” with land and space to a crowded apartment in a large city. Status quo bias. Built in friction from things like mortgages. There are lots of reasons.

Probably number one is family.

A flip question might be why someone tolerates the high cost of living in a large city to work at a min/almost min wage fast food job, etc. Answers are probably the same.
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Re: Jobs in small towns

Post by sailaway »

First, they are moving, in droves.

Second, there is poverty, under and unemployment in cities, as well as small towns.

For those who do stay, tradition, family and community play a strong role. Not everyone wants to leave what they have always known, even when it is falling apart. In the small town my parents retired to, "going over the mountain" to the nearest city is a big deal. Moving to any city is an overwhelming thought for many. Youth may grow up hearing of someone who left as ungrateful or selfish or just plain odd.

And why would someone with a job in a grocery store try out the big city? Would their standard of living be any better in a similar job?

For someone who lost a factory job that they held for 20 years, is the city really going to help or are they going to uproot themselves, remove themselves from their support network just to have another job disappear out from under them?

Once someone has sunk, poverty itself can play a big role. Moving is expensive, even if there are big rewards on the other side.
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Re: Jobs in small towns

Post by anonsdca »

I have always wondered the same thing when I go through those really small towns as I travelled the USA. Those kinds of towns are very interesting and I wonder what secrets they hold. The drive from WA to NV, you go through a lot of those places, mostly desert towns.

For me however, I have spent my life actively seeking to move away from large cities.

I started my life in a city with 4M+ people
Moved from there to a city with 1M+ people
Then moved down to a city with 175K people
Now I live in a city with 26K people

Every time I move down I get happier and happier. I haven't missed a thing of what I left behind. Not retired yet.
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Re: Jobs in small towns

Post by Watty »

I never lived in a small town but two things that might not be obvious;

1) A small town may have a limited population but it may be the only town within 20+ miles. That can mean that there are several hundred square miles of farms, ranches, forests, etc that help support the town. The economic base may be a lot larger than it might seem since even a medium size farm can be a multimillion dollar business, even if it has a lot of debt.

2) The reason many small towns are in decline is the automation of farming which requires much less labor than it did a generation or two ago. Being a farm hand may not have been a high paying job but without these jobs people will move away because of the lack of jobs.
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Re: Jobs in small towns

Post by iamlucky13 »

If I could get a job in the field I work in now, in the small town I grew up in, even with a pay cut commensurate or slightly greater than the difference in living expenses, I'd jump at the chance.

Not all of us are born as city-livin' types.

Also, many people can't afford it. I have a relative who was all set to make the move to a city, including a job lined up, but they were living paycheck to paycheck, and there was no way they could put up first and last month's rent at something like double their current cost, to say nothing of the cost of the actual move. I know multiple others in similar situations.

We were discussing in the extended family how to help make it happen if they were set on it, but I think that both took the wind out of their sails and gave the in-laws another reason to encourage their son to stay close.

Even those who have the money saved up to make the move may well find the higher pay is offset entirely by higher cost of living. I live in an area with one of the highest minimum wages in the country. For the county, not just the main city where housing costs are even worse, a median one bedroom apartment will consume 55% of that.

The house in the rural town may be run down, and the job may pay a pittance, but there is a possibility they're genuinely better off in the run down house than in the run down apartment in the city.
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Re: Jobs in small towns

Post by lifeisinmirrors »

People don't necessarily have the connections to get a high-paying job in the city. Their network is in the area they're from.
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Re: Jobs in small towns

Post by 1130Super »

Government assistance and I am not kidding
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Re: Jobs in small towns

Post by fru-gal »

Living in a big city is my idea of hell. There are things more important than money.

People jammed together like sardines, no nature, no peace and quiet, crime, filth, destruction of the planet.
Last edited by fru-gal on Tue Jan 14, 2020 5:19 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Jobs in small towns

Post by nativenewenglander »

I grew up in a town just outside Boston.
My goal was to move to a small town in NH after college.
I wanted to live in a place where others had to come to vacation, as I would be living that life 24/7.
Fast forward 36 years and I am still living that life now retired.
I ski almost everyday in winter.
Summers I hike, fly fish and mountain bike.
I've been doing all those activities since I moved to NH.
The only difference is I live in northern NH now rather than SWNH.
I live in a neighborhood now rather than a rural farm property surrounded by no one else.
Small towns have a strong sense of community, you can choose to be part of it by volunteering on various boards as I have done and still do.
I've traveled for work to cities all over the USA and always longed to be home again in my small town.
It's not for everyone, but neither is a big city.
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Re: Jobs in small towns

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