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Noah Smith

How Governments Can Move People to Jobs

Mobility is crucial to a healthy economy.
Let's get moving.

Let's get moving.

Photographer: Tim Boyle/Getty Images

The opening scene of "The Karate Kid" left a big impression on me. A struggling, working-class single mom in New Jersey packs her family and all of her worldly possessions into a green station wagon and heads west to California in search of a better life. As a child who had only ever known one town, I was astonished by the notion that you could move across the entire country on a wing and a prayer like that.

I shouldn't have been so surprised -- migration is a common story throughout the world. Immigrants move from Poland to the United Kingdom, or India to Singapore, or the Philippines to Japan in search of better prospects. Rural migrants leave the indigence of farm life for the bustle of China's big cities. And in the U.S., people are always moving around the country as well as immigrating from overseas. My own parents moved from the Midwest to Texas.