2024-03-25 童言无忌 4905

Why would you live in a huge city in poverty because of high living expenses or even be homeless, when you could manage much better in a small rural town in the country with the same type of job?


K. Sonyka
With their tiny and often poor tax bases, small towns offer little to no assistance for low-income people, and even fewer niceties. Job training programs and incentives for employers? Nope. Housing assistance? Not really. Charitable assistance (food, clothes, etc)? Not much beyond the local church maybe, nothing like what you’d see in a city. Small town schools aren’t as well funded, which means you have to fill in the gap or just leave your kid’s education gappy; that’s a cost (that compounds).


Want to take your child to a museum or park? Tons of free options in cities, not so much in small towns. (As a kid in NYC I got to go to the beach, swimming pools, ice skating, golf, tennis, more museums than I can count, and the opera— all public, all free or nearly free. With a single parent, none of that would have been possible otherwise.) When it was deadly cold the city provided places to get warm, when it was deadly hot the city provided public places to get cool, when hurricanes came the city provided shelters. Not for the homeless, for everyone. For whatever reason. In a small town you’re on your own.


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Believe it or not, housing is often better in cities. I’ve seen rentals in small towns that weren’t suitable for human habitation by city standards— windowless units, no hot water, partial roofs, whatever. In cities the basic housing laws tend to be enforced. In a small town you’re probably going to need a vehicle, and gas, maintenance, and insurance seriously add up. Cities have public transportation, and typically it’s less than half the cost. If you get sick, you’ll have a lot more no- and low-cost medical options in a city than in most small towns. Got addiction problems? Most cities have programs to help you. Might not be the greatest, but most small towns don’t have that at all.
And so on. Overall, city taxes go further than small-town taxes, and that means every resident gets more, for less. When you don’t have much to begin with, it makes a big difference.


Also not to be overlooked: cities have rich people, and rich people need services. That means there are a lot more not-quite-so-low-wage jobs than in small towns. Nanny, driver, and hotel housekeeper jobs won’t make anyone rich, but they’re a lot better than Quik Stop clerk or minimum-wage factory worker.

同样不容忽视的是:城市有富人,富人需要服务。这意味着,与小城镇相比,有更多不那么低工资的工作。保姆、司机和酒店管家的工作不会让任何人变得富有,但他们比 Quik Stop 店员或最低工资的工厂工人要好得多。

Okay, so I've actually been poor in a big city (NYC) and in a small town (in North Carolina).
If you have to be poor in one of them, you pick the big city every time.
There is NO money in poor small towns. There are practically NO jobs. Everyone knows everyone so small towns are extremely clannish -- if you don't know the right people or are seen as an outcast in some way, you will not advance.
Big cities have more money. They have more jobs. No one knows or cares about anyone, so anyone can usually get something. The opportunity for economic advancement in the cities so far outstrips that in the small towns that it's not even funny.


My mom and I chose to sleep on my grandparents floor in the projects rather than return to small town poverty. We gave that small town a shot for a single year and ran out of there as fast as we could, right back to the inner city.
There is a reason so many small towns in the US are shrinking.
There is a reason why across the planet poor people flock from the countryside to the cities, rather than vice-versa.
You want money? Social advancement? A chance to better your station?
You get yourself to the city.


It’s very interesting to read this perspective in the US context. Here in Europe, the answer to that question wouldn’t be as clearly in favor of cities.


Due to the relatively small size of most European countries and decent public transport, commuting from rural areas to big cities is feasible. I grew up in a rural community. But rural here meant 40 minutes by train to the nearest university town, not ‘in a remote corner of Dakota’.
Even if you don’t fancy a commute, most rural parts of Europe experience serious labor shortages. In countries like Germany, the Netherlands or Belgium, manufacturing firms are generally concentrated in rural areas. Such firms offer excellent pay and security even to relatively low-skilled workers.


Pay differentials between urban and rural areas certainly exist, but aren’t as pronounced as they are in the US - especially for poorer people. High minimum wages, industry-wide collective bargaining agreements and such like ensure that large pay gaps between rural and urban areas only become apparent once you hit ‘higher-end’ occupations. And even there, the modest size of European countries ensures that rural employers cannot fall too far behind urban competitors. At some point, your workers will accept a one hour commute to the nearest city to get better pay.
Cities face housing shortages, mainly due to restrictive planning rules and competition for housing from universities, colleges and their associated ecosystems (spin-offs etc.). Even ‘ghetto-ish’ parts of successful cities may have significantly higher housing costs than affluent rural areas.
A deep-seated cultural obsession with home (and garden!) ownership in most of Europe means that, if and when poorer people make it to the middle class, they will prefer buying a home in an affordable rural or suburban area over renting in an expensive city.


The notable exception to this rule are poorer members of immigrant communities, who often choose to stay in bigger cities to maintain proximity to their community. These people would likely enjoy a higher material quality of life if they left for more rural pastures, but they - probably not unreasonably - feel that the benefits of a close-knit community outweigh those of a nicer home.


Andrei Ma
UK perspective here: (edited) On reflection, I’m not sure whether the “American” or “European” perspective is more applicable here!
First, there is a certain cutoff of “smallness”: settlements smaller than this cutoff will have hardly any job opportunities and the people you will find living there, depending on the the perceived “poshness” of the place, will be (1) families on benefits, (2) retirees and rich people with second homes, or (3) families that have lived there for several generations - either farmers or owners of local small businesses. There is no scope for career advancement or wealth generation in any of these places, unless you’re *already* wealthy and choose to invest in property and rent it out as an Airbnb!


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On the other hand, there are many towns/cities with a population between 50000 and 200000 (which may or may not be “small” depending on your perception!) that clearly have untapped potential, much lower costs of living than London, and are big enough to avoid the sort of “everyone knows everyone, you’re not one of us” village mentality.
(Addendum) Second, I’m not aware of there being any significant amount of “manufacturing” in the parts of the UK that are considered genuinely rural by the people who live there. Again, what you described *might* apply to the “population 50000–200000” towns (only to a limited degree, because British manufacturing is dying a slow and painful death), but not to “rural Britain”.


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(Addendum 2) Finally, speaking of the death of British manufacturing… A lot of these “population 50000–200000” towns formerly depended on manufacturing for their survival. With the demise of manufacturing, unemployment and social deprivation in many of these places have shot up. I wrote about “untapped potential” earlier but there’s another side of the coin. If you wanted to open a small business in one of those places, you can probably do so very easily with lots of empty shop fronts to choose from, relatively cheap rents and little competition. But then, you might not get any business because the local clientele are either too deprived to afford your goods or too stuck in their ways to appreciate whatever novelty you’re offering. There’s a reason why there are so many empty shop fronts after all! Choose your small town/city carefully (there are a few nice ones, but they also come with high costs of living, snooty people and lots of tourists resulting in an explosion of Airbnbs and soaring rents… you just can’t win here).


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So… I wouldn’t say the UK situation is the “complete opposite” of what Ke’Aun said. Perhaps a bit less polarised, with more opportunity in slightly smaller towns and cities, but definitely not the opposite, and a high proportion of young people here do go to big cities to “seek their fortunes” straight out of uni. Sadly, there isn’t a lot of “fortune” to be gained in the UK anymore; this is not a land of opportunity; but perhaps there’s still a bit more opportunity in London than in, say, Great Yarmouth. Or try a large city that isn’t London, maybe? Newcastle for example…
Final note: “affluent rural Britain” (aka the land of second homes and Airbnbs) is surprisingly expensive. Much more so than big cities that aren’t London.


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Tom Williams
Picturesque rural areas here in the USA is getting very expensive also.


Tom Williams
I’ve been retired for a year now and live in a top-10 most populated city in the USA. I’ve never been married, no kids, and live alone. Living where I am now has been getting on my nerves for quite some time. Moving to a small town (in which I have been researching) appeals to me. But I’m scared about having to relocate and doing it alone.
This city I’m in now is very costly and I can’t afford to stay in retirement here. I feel like I need some help in relocating but having difficulty finding someone to give me some guidance. I feel the need to know someone at a place where I would like to move to.


Lee H. Christof
I’ve lived in large cities, small towns and rural areas. Small towns win out for me. Rural areas can be nice but has it’s disadvantages. I would never go back to live in a large city. They are fine to visit, but not live.


Kevin Cameron
I lived in a small town in Japan. I had my own business that folded with COVID. I could not get another job partly because I did not have family, but more because I have a masters degree - not in spite of it. No one would hire me because they all knew that I was “over qualified”.
When I first moved there with my wife (who also had a masters degree from the most prestigious University in Japan) it took several years for people to understand why we were even there when most people out age wanted to get out.


Nadhiya Athaide
Small towns have no money. And this is especially true here in Iran. Businesses are flocking to the cities and rural incomes are declining significantly.
The money that many individuals in small towns make often puts them just on or below the poverty line. So while they might have cheaper living expenses, they’re not necessarily considered middle class.
In comparison, someone who moves to the city can do the exact same job, and will typically make a higher income while doing so. They might not be middle class, but their income will be much higher than what they’d typically make in a small town.
One of my childhood friends (Azraa) was an English teacher in a small city called Darian for a few years. She made a liveable wage but it was still quite low and she was living lower middle class. After moving back to Shiraz, her income increased a good 3–to 4x times. Now, she lives comfortable middle class, doing the exact same job, despite increased living expenses.
Wages in a small town vs in a big city can very much determine how you can live and could mean the difference between running water, electricity &, etc. Hence why Iran in particular has a rapidly rising urbanization rate. The rural masses are flooding into the cities at an unprecedented rate.

我儿时的一个朋友(Azraa)在一个叫 Darian 的小城市当了几年英语老师。她挣的工资还可以维持生计,但仍然很低,她生活在中下阶层。当她搬回到设拉子后,她的收入增长了3到4倍。现在,她做着完全相同的工作,却成了生活舒适的中产阶级,尽管生活费用增加了。

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