Urban Affairs Spring 2020
• Welcome to Week 3!
• I must say that everyone has responded exceedingly well to
the discussion posts. Thank you for your hard work!
• This week
✓ We will move from defining and measuring migration through
numbers to hearing from migrants themselves.
✓ You’ve read about both international and domestic migration,
and you will read narratives from both.
✓ The goal is to move beyond numbers and definitions and do
what we call a ‘deep dive’– experiences of migration are far
more complex than what you’ve learned in the first two weeks.
✓ One way researchers capture this complexity is by doing
‘qualitative’ studies– studies that rely on interviews,
observation, archival materials etc. You will encounter these in
the assigned readings for this week.
Looking Beyond the Numbers
• Recall from the first two weeks the various drivers of migration,
both international and domestic– what makes people move?
• Then, read the following:
✓ International migrant narratives: Mixed Migration Review
2019, Section 2: The migrants’ world, “Views from the
Ground” (pages 54, 55, 60 61, 66, 67)– a report
✓ Domestic migrant narratives: “Moving narratives: Using
online forums to study amenity out-migration in the
American Midwest” (pdf attached in module)– a journal
• The first piece is a report produced by an international
organization and the second piece is a research article: both are
very different types of writing, yet have similar themes and
make a point to focus on migrant narratives
Migrant Narratives: International
• Go to the link
• Read about Mixed Migration, and the
Mixed Migration Center
• You can read other sections of this report as
well if you wish (I will assign some specific
sections later in the semester), but for now
we’ll focus on the narratives
• When you read these migrant narratives,
✓ What stands out most for you?
✓ What are the commonalities across all
these narratives? Differences?
✓ How are they helpful? Do they give you
any new information (beyond what you
had already learned?
Migrant Narratives: Domestic
• This second article focuses on domestic
• Ask the same questions again (as in the previous slide)
• In addition, when you read these migrant narratives,
✓ Is there anything in common between the
international and domestic experience of
✓ What about the drivers of migration? Do they
resonate across both experiences?
✓ What ‘qualities’ of migration can you identify
from these migrant narratives (they can be
negative or positive)?
Migrant Narratives: Dissecting a Journal Article
• The journal article includes multiple
✓ What are these?
✓ What does the author say is missing
from these explanations?
• Next comes the methods section
✓ What methods does the author use to
collect the data?
✓ What type of data is collected?
• Don’t worry if you don’t understand the
✓ Why do they collect this type of data?
‘theory’ and ‘methods’ sections fully. Try
✓ What are their sources of data?
and do the best you can
• The results section then
• As you read the sections, follow this
✓ What are the main findings?
template. Make notes of these points
✓ What are some secondary findings?
(online pdfs have highlighters)
• The article introduces you to a type of
• And finally the discussion
domestic migration called ‘Amenity
✓ What are the main points of the
✓ What does the author state about it in
✓ What are the contributions of the
the introduction? Why is it important?
• It then goes on to elaborate the different
✓ What are its limitations?
explanations that already exist for
To Do This Week
• I will conclude this lecture here
• In this lecture, I’ve given you a slice of migrant narratives, both international and
• We’ve discussed why its important to move beyond the numbers and examine
• We’ve read narratives of different types of migrations and migrant journeys
• This week, your assignment is to write a response paper
✓ The paper should be 1000 words
✓ It should be based on today’s assigned readings, as well as the previous two
✓ In your response paper:
Begin by providing a brief overview of migration (types, statistics, examples)–
here is where you can use the previous two discussion board responses.
Then address the various methods by which migration is studied/understood.
Comment on the pros and cons of these methods
Next, compare the experiences of domestic and international migration using
examples from the migration narratives you read today (refer to slides 4 and 5)
Finally address why we cannot ignore migration and need to understand it better.
Look up (from weeks 1 and 2) the challenges of migration and include these in
your response, and include them in your discussion for this section
Feel free to use additional (non-Wikipedia) sources, include charts, graphs etc.
Journal of Rural Studies 33 (2014) 32e40
Contents lists available at ScienceDirect
Journal of Rural Studies
journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/jrurstud
Moving narratives: Using online forums to study amenity outmigration in the American Midwest
Shaun A. Golding
Bowdoin College, 7000 College Station, Brunswick, ME 04011, USA
a b s t r a c t
Rural amenity communities attract in-migrants with natural scenery, recreational opportunities, and
cultural charm. But the demographic story of amenity destinations in the United States is not one of
simply arrivals, but of cyclical and simultaneous arrivals and departures. While scholars of amenity
migration paint detailed portraits of the people moving toward amenities, far less is written about those
who leave amenity communities. Accessing a sample of reverse amenity migrants is both beyond the
purview of most research and difﬁcult to achieve logistically, but learning from these reverse migrants
will sharpen the academic rendering of amenity communities. This paper analyzes content from online
forums in which reverse amenity migrants from one region of the American Midwest reﬂect upon their
experiences. It examines the extent to which they attribute their move to unmet social and material
expectations, ﬁnding that divisions based on wealth are not only present among posts but addressed
directly in posts. The paper considers the implications of contrasting expectations, and proposes that
online forums can help researchers more easily investigate factors that inﬂuence modern migration
Ó 2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Demographers and geographers have written extensively about
factors that inﬂuence migration decisions (See for example,
Roseman, 1983; Rudzitis, 1999; Williams and Jobes, 1990). Historically, it has been easiest to attribute moves within the United States
to the lure of economic improvements (Greenwood, 1981; Lee,
1966; Long and Hansen, 1979). That is, people relocate when it
beneﬁts them ﬁnancially. In modern, post-industrial economies, a
growing number of moves are motivated by perceptions about
quality of life (Cloke and Goodwin, 1992; Frey and Johnson, 1998).
With ﬂexible working conditions, easily transferable skills, or
substantial wealth, movers can relocate with less concern for their
economic sustenance. This means that rural communities, even
with fewer job opportunities and higher unemployment, can be
very appealing to contemporary movers. While rural places offer a
relatively unhurried lifestyle by their nature, some communities
also offer natural amenities such as lakes, mountains, coastlines,
and accompanying recreation infrastructure. These places appeal to
migrants in especially large numbers, compelling scholars of
“amenity migration” to more closely examine both the places and
the people who move there (See for example, Moss, 2006).
E-mail address: email@example.com.
0743-0167/$ e see front matter Ó 2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Less is known about those who depart from amenity communities. Because amenity destinations are characterized demographically by their population gains, we are predisposed to focus
on arrivals instead of departures. What is more, it can be difﬁcult to
account for reverse migrants because they depart for different
places. That is, once they leave they are no longer located in one
place to be conveniently surveyed. But the sociological relevance of
leaving should not be discounted. The economic and lifestyle decisions that push people away from appealing rural places are
pieces of the larger puzzles of amenity communities and contemporary migration. They sharpen the often-presented portrait of
tenuous social relationships that occur as rural communities
Publicly available online communications offer an opportunity
to begin ﬁlling-in these missing puzzle pieces. Movers are turning
to the internet to learn about potential destinations just like any
consumer uses the internet to research a vacation destination or
product. Unlike institutional web pages, public internet forums
contain unscripted and unpolished “word of mouth” dialog about
communities. Postings on these forums are typically initiated by
questions about a speciﬁc place posed by curious outsiders
considering a move to that place. Replies are posted by individuals
with varying degrees of familiarity with the place in question. They
are often former residents, current residents, or second homeowners. The resulting discussions contain vivid personal narratives
S.A. Golding / Journal of Rural Studies 33 (2014) 32e40
illustrating the complex and changing social milieu of amenity
communities. The forums offer particularly valuable insight to a
few nebulous areas in the academic understanding of amenity
migration, including how past rural residents reﬂect upon the
communities they have left. To summarize, frequently discussed
topics in the forums include the general appeal of rural life, housing
affordability, jobs and the local economy, taxes, and tension between permanent, seasonal, new and old residents.
In examining how amenity communities are portrayed by
former residents in on-line discussion forums, this paper considers
each of these topics. It focuses on one high-amenity region in the
United States spanning three Midwestern states, and draws from
one website’s public forums: City-Data.com. This analysis adds
narrative detail to the standard demographic push and pull factors
that we assume govern reverse-amenity migration. In particular, it
considers how out-migrants’ expectations of place are both social
and material, and how these opposing perspectives appear to
collide and interact in online discussion forums.
Although insight into reverse-amenity migration in the United
States is lacking, a robust demographic literature on age-speciﬁc
migration offers a starting point. We know from extensive “braindrain” literature that rural communities lose young people to cities
because they offer limited opportunities for post-secondary
schooling, employment, marriage, and culture (Carr and Kefalas,
2009; Johnson et al., 2005; Nelson and Sewall, 2003; Plane, 1992;
Sandefur, 1985). These qualities are urban amenities generally
lacking in rural communities. While rural amenity communities are
ostensibly poised to retain young adults with their employment
and cultural opportunities that emerge around natural amenities,
we know that their high costs of living also repel young people
(Winkler et al., 2011).
Retirees comprise a larger proportion of movers, but are less
easily generalized. Scholars of gerontology have found that climate
ﬁgures heavily into retiree’s migration decisions, and that retirement migration occurs in phases, such that older retirees eventually relocate from their original destinations to be closer to family
or medical care (Cuba and Longino, 1991; Haas and Serow, 1993;
Longino et al., 2002). Ultimately, however, retirement decisions
are closely linked to wealth, and high costs of living are repellant to
less wealthy retirees living on ﬁxed incomes (Serow, 2001). Middleaged Americans typically move less than other age categories, and
although we can speculate that many are lured away by larger labor
markets, little is known about why they might move away from
amenity communities as a group.
Although a demographic lens provides general insight on the
importance of jobs, income, families, culture, and climate for rural
out-migrants, understanding the decisions behind migration
cannot be accomplished by merely counting or classifying outmigrants or their patterns (Champion, 1998). To understand why
some people leave popular destinations communities, it is important to unpack complexity: to seek out the scattered sample of
households who leave, and consider their demographic traits in
tandem with the sociological richness of their context. Rural
destination communities are complexly woven social environments, not simply gentrifying places where old and new residents
come to blows (Robbins et al., 2009). Diversity within amenity
destinations has been documented in terms of political views, class
locations, and social and environmental attachments (Brehm,
2007; Ghose, 2004; Golding, 2012; Jarosz and Lawson, 2002). The
durations of one’s tenure in a rural locality has been observed to
correlate with their feelings of attachment to communities and the
environment (Brehm et al., 2004), and to help explain orientations
toward planning and politics (Golding, 2012). Moreover, exchanges
between these myriad interests reify the very meanings of destination places and landscape in the collective conscious (DuPuis,
2006; Perkins et al., 2008).
Given the ﬂuid nature of amenity communities’ populations and
culture, change is a factor that eventually pushes people away. As
argued in rural migration research from Europe (eg. Cloke and
Little, 1997; Halfacree, 1994, 1995), amenity migrants often seek
an idyllic rural location that exists ﬁrst in their imaginations (Van
Dam et al., 2002; Jobes, 2000; Williams and Jobes, 1990). Their
relocation to a destination community is motivated by expectations
about that community, which may not synch with their actual
experience. It may take several moves to several different locales
before the idyll is realized in an actual place. This pattern of serial
migration reﬂects a culture of rootlessness in which a locale offers
movers in a rapidly changing world an important identity anchor
(Giddens, 1991; Golding, 2012; Gupta and Ferguson, 1992). Thus,
many movers have individualized and deeply personal motivations
for moving to a certain place, expecting to feel existential harmony
when they’ve landed in the place where they belong. But as time
passes and places change, newcomers’ view of their belonging is
prone to change as well.
Jobes (2000) sorts through the social dimensions of newcomers’
motivations for leaving in his account of rural destinations in the
Rocky Mountains, observing that movers’ to the region have
different ways of relating to community, which inform the likelihood that they’ll eventually move someplace else. For example,
forming relationships in the present but not maintaining them over
time was conducive to transience, and similarly, superlative preconceived “illusions” of place were idyllic bubbles burst by reality.
Those who stayed longer, Jobes observed, tended to occupy a
middle ground of expectations, in which they were appreciative of
but not entranced by their natural setting, and also invested in their
community through active participation in civic life (Jobes, 2000).
Jobes’ work illustrates that some amenity migrants may seem
relatively capricious and ﬁckle in choosing and adjusting to a rural
destination while others ease-in to their new communities
We have heard much less about unmet material expectations
that might motivate out migration: from out-migrants who cannot
afford to be ﬁckle. After several decades of amenities research, we
know that high housing costs and cultural shifts can be difﬁcult for
long-term residents to endure, particularly low-income households
vulnerable to economic restructuring and rising inequality
(Hammer and Winkler, 2006; Nelson, 1997, 2002; Philips, 1993).
Further, Salamon (2007) ﬁnds evidence that exurban settlement
impacts individuals’ sense of community and alters the traditional
support networks for children and families. Winkler (2013) observes that this may occur particularly acutely when communities
orient their public spending toward retirees in an effort to attract
relatively afﬂuent newcomers. Such communities may invest in
healthcare and transportation infrastructure at the expense of
schooling and extracurricular activities for children. But despite
evidence that the displacement of long-term, low-income residents
occurs in destination communities, a dearth of research has
assessed the phenomena from the perspective of those displaced.
Out-migrants leaving long-established anchors in family and
community are certainly motivated by favorable expectations of
their new destinations, but to what extent are they also leaving in
response to unmet expectations of their hometowns?
This paper uses internet discussion forums to shed further light
on why amenity migration spurs out-migration. In drawing from a
geographically dispersed sample, it seeks to encompass newcomers
and longer-term residents alike, and to the greatest extent possible,
explore their social and material motivations for leaving a high
S.A. Golding / Journal of Rural Studies 33 (2014) 32e40
amenity region. Further, the paper introduces online forums as
data-rich sources for migration research, and concludes by
considering how public online communications are shaping and
shaped by evolving characteristics of contemporary migration.
3. Methods and materials
The analysis presented here constitutes an attempt to compile
narrative accounts of reverse amenity migration to achieve muchneeded qualitative insight as to its motivating factors. McHugh
(2000) suggests that ethnographic approaches to migration
research are an appropriate means of shedding light on the phenomenon’s more complex individual-level facets. He builds his
argument on a foundation established by his contemporaries in
geography (Fielding, 1992; Findlay and Graham, 1991; Halfacree
and Boyle, 1993; White and Jackson, 1995). McHugh proposes
that migration ethnography maintains focus on the interplay of
lived experience, culture, and geography; it reinvigorates the
topic’s rich theoretical implications; and more realistically frames
the dynamism of movements across space and time as the product
of human decisions.
Out-migrants are a spatially dispersed group, which makes
them difﬁcult to locate for an ethnographic study. Internet bulletin
boards and discussion forums are a convenient means of locating
movers for ethnographic research, but mining the forums for data
remains a surprisingly novel research method for social scientists.
Our reluctance to use it seems predicated upon our lack of control
over it. Though it is indeed difﬁcult to investigate the veracity of
posters’ stories, or to dissociate their on-line personas from actual
behaviors, the same can be said about in-person interactions, on
which sociologists have traditionally relied. Murthy (2008) argues
that in addition to “new media” such as videogames and Facebook
pages, “digital forms of ‘old media,’” such as archiv …
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