Corporate Diaspora

As the cooling economy has slowed down human migration this past year, it’s worth reflecting how intense relocation has been during the past few decades. Historically, humans have always migrated for job opportunities, but usually for just one move per generation. Today we see families relocate multiple times as a result of the Corporate Diaspora, where distant job opportunities liken white-collar executives with nomadic migrant workers.

The end result will be a genealogist’s nightmare. How do you track a family that jumps from Cincinnati to Silicon Valley to suburban Connecticut, all within a decade? Without wars, famines, religious persecutions or gold rushes to help a historian pinpoint the movements of a twentieth century family, the trail becomes muddled. When the census records finally get released, families might have moved several times between surveys. They might even end back in the town where they began, burying a significant story in the cracks of decentennial paperwork.

With any luck, our descendants will have better access to information about our lives than the generations before us. But should the data of today get lost in the digital dust, it will be no easier to map the life of a twenty-first century office worker than that of a seventeenth century peasant.