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Generations of people came to the Midwest in hopes of finding a better life. But economic opportunity has been harder to find since the recession began, and people have left the region in record numbers in search of jobs or a better housing market. Changing Gears “Midwest Migration” project is collecting photos, stories, and voicemail messages from former Midwesterners – people who have left region since the recession of 2008.We’re mapping where people ended up, and we're sharing their stories about why they left and whether life is better for them now.We’ll also hear whether they plan to return to the Midwest.You can share your Midwest migration story here, and see responses on our Midwest Migration tumblr page.The Midwest Migration will run through mid-February 2012.

Returning to the region after weathering the recession

Name: Kelly Nieman Anderson
Midwest Home: Ann Arbor, MI

Kelly and her husband moved to Mexico City in 2008 to keep him working in the auto industry. They returned to Ann Arbor in 2010. She shared her thoughts about what she missed while she was away and some lessons she learned in Mexico with Changing Gears' Midwest Migration project.

There were a lot of things we missed about Michigan.  For me, it was my family and community.  Nearly all of our college friends had left the state to find work, so we didn't have a lot of friends in the area anymore.  But, we missed the food - cherries, apples, squash, and the changing seasons - crunching snow, blooming daffodils, fireflies, falling leaves.  I missed trees.  The Midwest has so many trees, everywhere, and we take them for granted.  I missed roads that made sense.

It was hard on me to be so far away from home when Michigan was struggling so much.  It was hard to realize that in order to keep our home in Michigan, in order to keep working in the auto industry, in order to have enough extra to donate to our charities and churches in Michigan who were doing so much good in the community, we had to live in a different country.  The day that GM went bankrupt, I wrote a blog, and my husband's grandma thought someone had died I was so sad.

Mexico does not have a lot of cultural diversity, but it directly faces class diversity.  The neighborhoods are very economically diverse - a maid will live next door to her employer. Because of this actual unemployment in the cities was low.

Many people were working under the table, or for less than living wage, which was very unfortunate.  There was a sense of responsibility amongst those who had money to hire as many workers as possible and to pay them as much as you could.  In Mexico, hiring a housekeeper and going out to eat and tipping our security guard was seen as our responsibility.  We traveled locally, shopped locally, ate locally, and tipped locally - all to do our small part to keep our little community going.  Lots of other Mexicans more wealthy than us did the same.  The working class, in the city at least, didn't resent the richer class. They resented the government's policies and corruption.  This is very different than here in Michigan.

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