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What is Geographic Mobility?

Geographic mobility refers to the ability and willingness of individuals or populations to relocate in pursuit of better living conditions, job opportunities, or education. It's a dynamic force shaping economies and societies, reflecting both personal ambition and broader trends. How does this movement impact cultural integration and economic growth? Join us as we explore the ripple effects of geographic mobility.
R. Stamm
R. Stamm

Geographic mobility occurs when the production of goods in one geographical area is moved to another geographical area. Production of goods may shift from city and state and even to other countries depending on the ease with which resources can change locations. As production locations shift, workers relocate, causing either an increase or a decline in local populations. Population and economic reports measure this type of mobility by studying an area’s immigration, out migration, and net migration, useful in determining the economic effects of population mobility.

The term geographic mobility refers to the reallocation of economic resources. It is influenced by numerous factors, such as workers fleeing from weak job markets in search of more opportunities in stronger ones. The cost of living and home prices in a geographical area may affect population, with homeowners selling expensive homes, then moving to an area where homes are less expensive. Mobility generally increases during periods of recession and decreases when the economy is healthy, tends to follow unemployment rates and occurs not just on a national level, but on a global scale.

When companies shift the location of production, workers may relocate.
When companies shift the location of production, workers may relocate.

When measuring geographic mobility, experts commonly look to immigration numbers as a determining factor. Immigration refers to persons moving from their native country into another country and settling there. An increase of migrants in a given geographical area may cause settled individuals to move out, which can depress wages for those currently employed in that location. As the wages in a location decrease, the demand for housing increases, causing rents and home prices to rise.

Another measure of geographic mobility, out migration, means an individual moves out of one community, region, or country to live in another. Out migration from large cities can have devastating effects on rural governments, public service systems, and schools due to an increase in population not supported by the infrastructure. As people leave a community, job shortages may occur, leaving businesses such as hospitals understaffed or causing businesses to fold due to a loss of customers. Out migration can have similar effects as immigration on the local infrastructure, leading to collapse due to a loss of funds.

Net migration measures geographic mobility by the difference of immigrants and emigrants of an area over a period of time. A positive net migration means more people are entering a country, while a negative net migration shows more individuals leaving a country. Neither measurement gives specific reason for the cause of immigration or emigration. This measurement is useful in determining the possible effects immigrants may have on a given geographical location.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is geographic mobility and why is it important?

Geographic mobility refers to the ability and willingness of individuals or populations to move within a country or from one country to another, often in pursuit of employment, education, or a better quality of life. It's important because it affects economic growth, labor market efficiency, and the distribution of skills and resources. High geographic mobility can lead to a more dynamic and adaptable workforce, which is crucial for meeting the demands of a changing global economy.

How does geographic mobility impact the economy?

Geographic mobility has a significant impact on the economy. It allows for the better allocation of human resources, as people move to where jobs are available, reducing unemployment and filling skill gaps. According to the OECD, regions with higher mobility tend to have lower unemployment rates and higher productivity. This mobility also stimulates housing markets and local economies through increased consumer spending.

What factors influence an individual's decision to move geographically?

Several factors influence geographic mobility, including economic incentives like job opportunities and higher wages, quality of life considerations such as better education and healthcare, and personal reasons like family ties or cultural preferences. Additionally, government policies, such as immigration laws and regional development initiatives, can either facilitate or hinder people's ability to move. The ease of finding housing and the cost of living in a new location also play a role.

Can geographic mobility reduce inequality?

Geographic mobility has the potential to reduce inequality by enabling people to move from areas with fewer opportunities to those with more. This can help spread wealth and reduce regional disparities. However, mobility alone is not a panacea; it must be accompanied by policies that ensure equitable access to opportunities and support for those relocating. Otherwise, it could exacerbate inequality if only the most skilled or affluent are able to move.

What are the challenges associated with high levels of geographic mobility?

High levels of geographic mobility can present challenges such as cultural integration issues, strain on public services in destination areas, and potential labor shortages in the regions left behind. It can also lead to personal challenges for movers, such as social isolation and the stress of adapting to new environments. Moreover, it can have environmental impacts due to increased transportation and urban sprawl. Balancing these challenges with the benefits of mobility is key for sustainable development.

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Discussion Comments


@pleonasm - It's easy to talk about it as though someone has done something wrong and in some companies, of course, they are moving because they want to make more money.

But for other companies, they have to move in order to stay afloat. Sometimes the city they were established in becomes more expensive, sometimes they need to move in order to stay competitive with other companies, sometimes there's another reason.

It's not always greed or shady dealings, sometimes staying put would mean everyone was out of a job when the company goes under. In that case, being geographically mobile is a very good thing, because otherwise the company will cease to exist.


Geographical mobility seems like a pleasant way of talking about a lot of people losing their jobs.

At first when I was reading about it, and the article mentioned that people would relocate with the companies, I thought that meant that companies would relocate and simply take all of their employees with them.

And, sometimes some more important employees will come along for the relocation, of course.

But usually the relocation of the job and the employee happen co-currently because the employee loses their job and is forced to move somewhere that has work for them.

So, if a company has geographic mobility, in my mind, that makes them a very bad place to work and not somewhere that I'd like to apply.

Of course, some might say you are lucky to get any job at all, and they have a point as well.

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    • When companies shift the location of production, workers may relocate.
      By: industrieblick
      When companies shift the location of production, workers may relocate.