Here’s a conversation starter: Where are you really from?


You may have a place to live, but is it home? Is it really the place you are from, the home of your heart?

A new Pew Research Center survey has found that a majority of us don’t feel as though the place we are living now is really home.

That’s because so many Americans are mobile; they grew up in a place where they no longer live.

Pew calls this perceived real home the “heart home.”

That might not make any sense to you if you are one of the 40 percent of Americans who have never moved from the town or neighborhood of your childhood.

In fact Chicago is full of people who consider anything outside of Cook County as a foreign land. Many of my husband’s lifelong friends always have lived within a couple of miles of the South Side neighborhood of Beverly.

Some seem reluctant to visit us in the western suburbs, since the Land Beyond the Tri-State would be too far to travel without an overnight stay.

But for the rest of us, we might not live anywhere near where our hearts live. Pew found that people tend to define their true home in different ways.

For some, it is where their family of origin is; for others, it is where they went to high school or where they lived for the longest period of time.

My parents have lived in downstate Macomb for 46 years, but they might still say they are from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, even though they have not lived there since 1951. And even though my husband has not lived there since he was 18, he still considers himself a South Sider.

“Did you know so and so is from St. Sabina’s?” he asked me just the other day. (If you are a Catholic Chicagoan, there is really no other way to describe your neighborhood than by parish.) He was as happy as if he had found a long-lost friend while hiking the Himalayas — a fellow traveler from the heart home.

The Pew survey asked questions about American mobility and in one of the most surprising results, it found that fewer Americans have moved in the past year or so than at any other time since the Census Bureau began collecting data in the 1940s.

In a year spanning 2007 and 2008, only 11.9 percent of the population changed residences. Until the mid-1980s, it was more common for around 20 percent of Americans to move every year, but that number has been slowly declining since around 1985.

Most Americans say they have moved for job-related reasons, and have stayed for family reasons. College graduates are more likely to move; those with less education are more likely to stay put. Region-wise, the Midwest has more stay-putters than every other region of the U.S., and rural areas tend to keep their residents more than urban areas. And, the younger you are, the more likely you are to be mobile.

At a recent meeting, when I brought up this topic, the room exploded as everyone had to tell a story about where they had lived.

So if you need a conversation starter, try this one: Where are you really from?



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