Still Life: The End of Mobility

Roman playwright Titus Maccius Plautus once wrote, “You must spend money to make money.” Growing up we have all been encouraged to be innovators and entrepreneurs, to invest time and money into promising businesses and careers, but it seems that lately this idea is a little too old-fashioned. With the economy at one of its all time lows, America is experiencing its lowest rate of U.S. mobility since World War II. Everyone from the young to the old is refraining from moving out. College students are no longer chasing their elusive dream job in New York, and the older are not able to seek refuge in their luxurious lakeside retirement homes anymore.

Information derived from the new Census Bureau highlights the now more densely populated states: California, Illinois, New York and others. What this means is that students and people are no longer moving away, and they are all staying in their home states. Although many regard this information as insignificant, what they don’t realize is that although it might not affect them this instant, it will after graduation. It affects us in two ways: professionally and socially.

We all want to be the first of our friends to move out, to have our own place and start living our own lives. But with this economy, this goal might seem impossible. With the mobility of the United States heavily decreasing and at a stalemate, jobs are going to become that much more elusive. The economy, to be blatant, sucks. Even adults, regardless of the degrading wage, are taking the jobs that are designed for students, such as being a busboy at IHOP or working the food stands at the OC Fair. Because we are still in college, and our primary focus is school, we don’t think much about the economy.

For example, not many students on campus can give you details about Occupy Wall Street. Why? Because they feel it doesn’t affect them. It’s not that college students are ignorant, but oblivious: We don’t realize that although these crises don’t have imminent effects on us, they will in the future. As soon as our time in college is up we are thrown into the world prepared for jobs that don’t even exist. In a pessimistic view, our education is going to be fruitless. We will graduate in a few years and be forced to survive on minimum wage jobs while we seek something that seems almost intangible.

The jobs that are available, though, because of immobility, are going to be that much harder to obtain because essentially we will all be fighting for the same jobs. Everyone in Irvine, for example, will be going for jobs around Orange County. The audacity that students possessed is drastically decreasing. The fear of unemployment and financial distress is taking over our lives.

People are too scared to invest. Families are no longer spending that hard-earned money to vacation in Hawaii because they are scared that if the banks fail, they will be left with nothing. However, what most do not understand is that in order to keep things going — small business, large businesses, the banks, etc. — money needs to be spent. If more people spend money, businesses can boom and more employment will engender. Many of the jobs of the future have not been created yet, and if fear is what refrains people from taking the risk of creating that entity, those jobs may never be created at all.

The solution to this problem seems to be rather simple: spend money. But this proposes a paradox: don’t we need money to spend it? We don’t have money because there are no jobs, and thus, we can’t help fuel this economy.

Sergio Flores is a second-year English major. He can be reached at