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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.

Midwesterners are on the move, but where are they going?

Mapping the migration: Midwesterners are moving all over the country--a lot have left for southern states.
Mapping the migration: Midwesterners are moving all over the country--a lot have left for southern states.

Fewer Americans are making long distance moves than at any point since the census started tracking the data in the 1940s. Overall, American geographic mobility is declining--except in the Midwest.

From 2007-2009, over 900,000 people left the region. A lot of them went to Texas

Michigan Radio's Public Insight Journalist, Sarah Alvarez, has been collecting stories from some of the people who left. Alvarez spoke with Jennifer White, host of Michigan Radio's All Things Considered, about what's driving regional out-migration, and about how Midwestern exiles feel about making the Big Move.

Through the Public Insight Network, a database of sources, Alvarez heard from about 200 former Midwesterners living all over the country--and the world.  

"We wanted to see if these people's stories matched up with conventional wisdom and statistics about why people left the region," says Alvarez.

Conventional wisdom says that people are driven out by the bad economy. But according to Alvarez, people also left because they were looking for a different lifestyle and, "the bad economy just pushed them out the door."

For those who want to come back to the Midwest, many lack the economic opportunity they need to justify the move. "Regardless of how connected people feel to the region, how much they miss it, and even how much they don't like where they've ended up, predicting when they will move back has everything to do with the economy," says Alvarez. "If we could predict when the economy will be strong enough to have a lot of jobs and opportunities to offer, then we could predict when people will start coming back to the region."

You can read some of the stories of Midwestern migrants here. If you have a story to share, but didn't get a chance to, there's a new opportunity to participate. Send us your stories about culture and traditions--you can send songs, recipes, holiday traditions, and photos--we'll be collecting them at yourfamilystory.tumblr.com


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