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In a Recession, It’s Not Only the Flow of Money That Slows

September 21st, 2009 . by economistmom

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According to an AP story by Hope Yen, a new Census Department survey (the “American Community Survey”) suggests that a common symptom of this recession is that people are feeling stuck–in several different ways.

Stuck wherever they live (because it’s expensive to move):

Preliminary data earlier this year found that many Americans were not moving, staying put in big cities rather than migrating to the Sunbelt because of frozen lines of credit. Mobility is at a 60-year low, upending population trends ahead of the 2010 census that will be used to apportion House seats…

Stuck in long commutes (because living close in and/or driving alone is expensive):

The percentage of people who drove alone to work dropped last year to 75.5 percent, the lowest in a decade, as commuters grew weary of paying close to $4 a gallon for gasoline and opted to carpool or take public transportation.

Twenty-two states had declines in solo drivers compared with the year before, with the rest statistically unchanged. The decreases were particularly evident in states with higher traffic congestion, such as Maryland, Texas and Washington.

Average commute times edged up to 25.5 minutes, erasing years of decreases to stand at the level of 2000, as people had to leave home earlier in the morning to pick up friends for their ride to work or to catch a bus or subway train…

And stuck in single-hood (because getting married is expensive, as it often starts the journey into home-ownership and parenthood):

Nearly 1 in 3 Americans 15 and over, or 31.2 percent, reported they had never been married, the highest level in a decade. The share had previously hovered for years around 27 percent, before beginning to climb during the housing downturn in 2006.

The never-married included three-quarters of men in their 20s and two-thirds of women in that age range. Sociologists say younger people are taking longer to reach economic independence and consider marriage, because they are struggling to find work or focusing on an advanced education…

But in recessionary times people are often stuck in marriages, too–because getting divorced (and splitting up a household and hiring attorneys) is even more expensive than getting married.  (See this story for example.)  Funny how both marriage and divorce appear to be “luxury” goods (or bads?)…

(And then of course there were the “staycations” many of us took this summer–stuck around home.  Not that that was a bad thing, depending on where “home” is for you.  I’m kind of spoiled with “home” being DC…)

Bottom line:  a slow economy tends to keep a lot of people “stuck” wherever they are, because real change is not just hard to do–it’s typically expensive, too.  It seems it takes money to “go with the flow.”

2 Responses to “In a Recession, It’s Not Only the Flow of Money That Slows”

  1. comment number 1 by: dave.s.

    I think Yen is missing something: guy meets girl, likes her, finds out she has $100000 in school debt, decides to take a pass on marrying her. Who can take on a negative dowry like that?

  2. comment number 2 by: janjanjan

    The biggest stuck of all is ’stuck in a lousy job’–after all it’s a job and best of all, it offers health insurance.