"This trend toward what I call "the new localism" has been underway for some years, driven by changing demographics, new technologies and rising energy prices. But the economic downturn will probably accelerate it as individuals and corporations look not to the global stage but closer to home, concentrating and congregating on the Main Streets where we choose to live – in the suburbs, in urban neighborhoods or in small towns.
In his 1972 bestseller, "A Nation of Strangers," social critic Vance Packard depicted the United States as "a society coming apart at the seams." He was only one in a long cavalcade of futurists who have envisioned an America of ever-increasing "spatial mobility" that would give rise to weaker families, childlessness and anonymous communities.
Packard and others may not have been far off for their time: In 1970, nearly 20 percent of Americans changed their place of residence every year. But by 2004, that figure had dropped to 14 percent, the lowest level since 1950. Americans born today are actually more likely to reside near their place of birth than those who lived in the 19th century. Part of this is due to our aging population, because older people are far less likely to move than those under 30. But more limited economic options may intensify this phenomenon while bringing a host of social, economic and environmental benefits in their wake."