“Where should I live?” is a popular question to be asking oneself right now. Since long before 2020, Americans have demonstrated an inclination to deal with problems by moving to a different place; because of the country’s deep history of immigration, westward expansion, and aggressive suburbanization, that urge is in our DNA. Beyond the country’s expansiveness, its infrastructure and political system encourage a particular kind of rootless mobility and sensitivity to relocation-based opportunity. During the pandemic, of course, a lot of people have moved, temporarily or permanently, and while there are plenty of rational or even opportunistic reasons to do so, like jobs or kids, moving also seems like an instinctive response to the trauma of this period: If the past four months were rough, location is one key variable you might try changing. The problem right now, at least within the United States (since many other countries have tamed the coronavirus), is a lack of places to truly escape to. Leaving New York and heading to Florida seemed like a reasonable plan in March, but now that’s reversed; the theory that some places are fundamentally safer than others due to their density, climate, or governance seems particularly questionable at the moment. The most intelligible rationale, regardless of region, favors some form of suburbanization: The ability to trade compromised public space for virus-free private space and wall oneself off from the infectious outside world as needed. But people are moving for many reasons besides that.
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