The new West is as restless as the old
Most people move to the
rural West in search of community, says sociology professor Pat
Jobes, who teaches at Montana State University in Bozeman. What
they find rarely measures up to their enthusiasm and
"It's a predictable,
unchanging pattern," says Jobes, who has studied migration patterns
in the West since 1972. Ask someone where they are from and they
will say Boulder, for example. "Then I ask them where they're
really from," Jobes says, "and it's a city somewhere else."
In the last four to five years the influx of
new people has accelerated, he continues, and this often confuses
town officials. They see real estate changing hands, new faces, and
think their town or county is booming. What is actually happening
is more like churning, Jobes says, since eight out of 10 people
move on within a decade. Some relocate to yet another Western town;
others return to the place they left.
ironic, he points out, is that the more an area tries to plan or
zone to somehow control the growth, the more attractive a place
becomes. That increases the rapidity of the turnover, he says. He
doesn't even think "going rural" helps - piling up old cars and
other junk outside a house.
What can old-timers
do to stanch the flow? Not much, Jobes concludes. "If people want
to move, they will. It's sometimes sad to watch if you've lived in
a town for a while or were born there."
is currently evaluating data about the current move-in, move-on
phenomenon. In 1992, a book he co-authored, Community, Society,
Migration, was published by University Press of America. It sells
for $48.50 (800/462-6420).
" Betsy Marston, HCN