A Thought to Ponder
By Arnold Kling
Behind Hornbeck’s estimates seems to me a deeper pattern of human behavior. When confronted with difficulties, leaving to try somewhere else is hard, but do-able. Staying and continuing with the same behavior is unpleasant, but do-able. But staying and dramatically altering one’s behavior seems somehow hardest of all.
When Nick Schulz suggested I chew on that thought, I fished the June issue of the AER out of my recycling bin to read the Hornbeck paper. Boy, Taylor’s observation sure did not jump out at me from the paper. It might very well be true, though.
The SEED school, a charter school in DC, is a boarding school. They take students out of their home environment, which is consistent with the theory that “staying and dramatically altering one’s behavior seems somehow hardest of all.”
As Nick says, there are PSST implications to consider. I have noted that my father thought that his St. Louis high school classmates got shaken into new patterns during WWII by being shipped overseas. My father’s view was that had they stayed put, their lives would have been much more limited. This in turn led me to hypothesize that the exogenous shock to mobility that the war produced helped to speed the creation of new patterns of specialization and trade.
Many economists have noted that the freeze-up in the housing market has an adverse effect on mobility. That in turn would impede the creation of new patterns of specialization and trade.
I often say that the best way to change your luck is to meet new people. So, if you are an entrepreneur and something is not working right, try to meet some new people. If you are unemployed or stuck in a job you do not like, try to meet some new people.
Familiar people in familiar places are part of what makes up one’s identity. But if your identity is not working for you, improvement may require breaking away from the familiar.