Activity 2: Population Mobility Is Changing My State

Introduction

Between 2002 and 2003, 40.1 million U.S. residents moved, but more than half of those moves were local (within the same county). State-level and local moves are most meaningful to students because it is at this scale that their lives are most affected by mobility. It is also at this scale that students can conduct primary research in order to understand the causes and consequences of local change.


Part One: How is Population Mobility at the State and Local Level Changing My State?

Materials Needed

  • PowerPoint or overhead transparency of Figure 1: U.S. Change in Residence, 1995-2000 (PPT: 43KB)
  • PowerPoint or overhead transparency of Figure 2: United States: Changing Residence, 1995-2000
    (PPT: 174KB)

Instructions

  1. Use a projector to show Figure 1 or distribute it to students. Point out that while almost half of the people moved during this five-year period, most remained fairly close to home or at least within the same state.
  2. Next, project or distribute Figure 2. Encourage students to discuss the patterns reflected in this map, noting that residential change varied greatly across the country.
  3. Have the students answer the following questions:
    • Which states experienced change well above the national average?
    • Which states experienced relatively little change?
    • Consider push-pull factors that might account for varying levels of residential change.
    • Where does your state fit into this pattern of change?
    • What might account for your state's experience relative to the national average?

    Part Two: How Does Scale Affect the Message of a Map?

    Materials Needed

    Instructions

    1. Explain to students that the smaller the map scale (the larger the area represented in a map), the greater the degree of generalization of data represented on the map. Therefore, at the national level (as represented in Figure 2), each state appears to have experienced a uniform level of residential change. However, most states, when viewed at the county or even subcounty level, reveal a pattern of mobility that is quite varied.
    2. Distribute blank maps of your state with county boundaries. Then direct students to "American FactFinder" on the U.S. Census Bureau website. By carefully following the steps below, students can collect data at the county level for residential change.
      • On the left sidebar, click on "Data Sets."
      • In the next screen, select "Census 2000 Summary File 3 (SF-3)" and "Detailed Tables."
      • Next select “County” under Geographic Type; then select “State”; then “All Counties.”
      • Click on “Add” and then on “Next.”
      • Scroll through the list of tables to locate Table PCT 21; click "Add." Then click "Show Result." [Note: You can select additional tables if desired.]
      • The data for your state will appear as an Excel file that can be either printed or downloaded to a computer.
      1. Calculate the percentage of population that moved for each category and each county. [Note: This calculation can be done automatically in Excel.] Use this data to construct a choropleth map at the county level of residential mobility in your state 1995-2000.
      2. When maps have been completed, lead a discussion of the patterns of mobility revealed.
        • Review how your state compares to the rest of the country in terms of mobility rates. Is it above or below the national average?
        • Consider factors that may account for your state's mobility status.
        • Describe patterns of mobility within your state.
        • Which counties have experienced above average mobility? Which fall below average? Use your knowledge of your state to account for these patterns. What are the "growth magnets" in your state?
        1. Now focus on the county in which your school is located.
          • Identify patterns of mobility within your county or city. If possible, visit areas of unusually high or low mobility. Observe characteristics that may influence mobility.
          • How might patterns of mobility affect political and economic trends in your state, county, or community?
          • Did your parents grow up in your community or did they migrate from elsewhere? If your parents are "local," how has your state, county, or community changed since they were in high school? Which changes are products of mobility trends?