A Personal Demonstration of How "Voting With Your Feet" is Often Easier for the Poor than the Rich:

In the past, I have written about why, contrary to conventional wisdom, "voting with your feet" generally benefits the poor more than the relatively affluent - in part because it is much easier for the poor to do it. Ironically, I have now uninentionally confirmed my theory in my own life.

From 1997 to 2003, I moved five times to different parts of the country. Most of these moves were relatively easy to bear. Why? Because I didn't have much stuff to pack, transport, unpack, and generally worry about. Moreover, I was always moving into apartments or (in one case) a condo. So there was no contracting work to arrange for to get the place ready. Both the lack of possessions and the nature of the places I lived was dictated by the fact that I was fairly poor.

By contrast, my fiancee and I have recently moved into a new house a mere three miles away from my old condo. For me at least, this move has been more stressful than the previous five combined. Why? Because, due to my much higher pay since becoming a law professor, I now have many more possessions. The packing and unpacking have been a major pain, to put it mildly. Similarly, moving into a house required hiring contractors to do some work to get it ready, and dealing even with good contractors (like the ones recommended to us) is time-consuming and annoying, especially for people who are inexperienced with it. The process of selling the old home and purchasing a new one also requires an investment of time, effort, and money that people moving from one rental unit to another don't have to deal with.

In sum, while each of my previous moves involved merely two or three days of unpleasantness, this one has been a weeks-long ordeal. I hasten to add that no one should feel sorry for me. On balance, it is much better to be relatively affluent than to be poor (even if only temporarily poor, as I was during my pre-lawprof days). That much is obvious.

However, the much greater difficult of moving when you own a lot of stuff is an additional reason why voting with your feet is often easier for the poor. My experience is far from unique. Studies by economists find that homeownership (a proxy for wealth and possessions), tends to reduce labor mobility significantly. Another way of putting it is that the relatively high moving costs faced by the affluent make it less likely that they will move to a different jurisdiction to take advantage of its superior policies, unless the superiority is very great. The poor, by contrast, can often move to exploit relatively smaller interjurisdictional differences.

Obviously, if your wealth is really great, you can to some extent reduce the pain of moving by paying people to do everything for you. I did in fact pay movers to transport my stuff and pack a few especially hard to deal with items. However, that can get extremely expensive quickly, and only the really wealthy can easily afford to hire movers to do everything difficult. Even for them, the substantial additional cost of hiring professionals to do more things acts as a further deterrent to moving in the first place.