Social Question

seekingwolf's avatar

Is moving out of the city to the suburbs/rural area morally wrong?

Asked by seekingwolf (10407points) September 30th, 2014

I originally grew up in a nice rural area, with a low crime rate, beautiful scenery, cheap cost of living, and nice businesses. My family still lives there and I visit about once a week. I am living in a city now, about 30–40 min away from my hometown. I’ve been here 2 years and I truly have disliked it from the beginning. crime rate, noise, lousy neighbors,. The taxes are higher than in the rural areas but the buildings are crappier so not worth it. Once I finish school and get a better job, I will move back to that rural area and commute to the city for work.

I have talked to people about moving back to my hometown (not saying why though) and I get kickback. I have been accused of “white flight” (this city is maybe 40+% black folks and my hometown is 99.9% white, and I am as pale as they come) and I’m told that it’s morally wrong for me to move out when this city is going down the tube and I need to invest in it.

Our city’s mayor (and she’s a real peach, let me tell you) expresses the same views in her community outreach speeches, badmouthing those who want to leave, like myself.

It honestly makes me angry. Why do they think they can tell me what to do with my money or where to live? I feel like bottled air is a better investment than this city. I can’t really wrap my mind around these people feel that it is morally wrong to want to move to a cheaper, relatively crime free, more pleasant place rather than live here.

Can someone enlighten me? Do I have some moral responsibility to sink my hard-earned money into things I don’t believe in?

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59 Answers

hominid's avatar

@seekingwolf: “and I’m told that it’s morally wrong for me to move out when this city is going down the tube and I need to invest in it.”

Do these friends live in the city with you? Is it possible that they just don’t want to lose you?

seekingwolf's avatar

Most of my friends are supportive but some of them are saying this nonsense, yes. Funnily enough, I used to live in the rural area and since I have a car and it’s not THAT far away (30–40 min is really nothing), I was able to come see people and such. I do go to some events within the city to see people and I know that will continue when I move out and I will likely be working in the city too.

Maybe they are worried that they won’t see me anymore but given my track record and the fact that I have a car, they ought to know that it’s not a problem…

Of course, some of these people giving me trouble are not my friends. Just people at work or friends of friends at social events. They ask me my plans and I mention moving back to my hometown in a few years and that sets them off.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

Lets see, crime, trash, pollution, crowding, lousy neighbors, crappy buildings, taxes, vs open space, nature, no crowds, birds singing, a pleasant space. You really are despicable.~ I live on 21 acres with no neighbors, think I’m giving that up? Do what feels right to you. Screw the mayor and the others.

seekingwolf's avatar


I can’t tell you how much I miss seeing the stars on a clear night, smelling the fields, hearing lots of birds, etc. I just really resent how these people think it boils down to “Well you just don’t want to be around black people” and accuse me of being racist.

Like oh boy, you really make me want to stay in the city now. “Invest in us or else!”

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@seekingwolf I can’t believe the ways some people play the racist card. That blows my mind. They’re so invested in that idea they can’t see anything else.

JLeslie's avatar

Sounds like they are doing it partly for their own selfish reasons. They live in the city and if everyone who brings some good to the city leaves, then they eventually will probably have to leave too.

I think suburbs have a lot of negative concerning the environment, although some suburbs are trying to reduce that. Disclaimer: I have lived in the suburbs most of my life. suburbs often have people living on ¼ to 1 acre lots, you have to drive everywhere, commutes to work are longer, and public transportation is not very convenient if there is public transportation. This creates more car use, more pestiside use, more lawn watering, more trucks burning gas for trash pick up, more gas for mail services, and all sorts of negatives.

A fabulous urban area can provide convenient living, better energy usage, and huge green spaces with the city limits and also if people are more condendenced in one spot and living one on top of another, less countryside is developed into housing and even commerical development.

I’m not sure if you don’t like urban life, or if you don’t like the specific urban life you live in, because it feels unsafe to you and you have crappy neighbors. Although, I do get the impression you just don’t like it no matter how ideal.

I think you should move.

canidmajor's avatar

No, it’s not morally wrong, unless you made commitments, and promises and signed contracts saying that you would stay and actively work for the improvement of conditions in that city.

The mayor and elected officials are morally obligated to stay, not you. Unless you have been personally responsible for somehow damaging the city, your moral compass should guide you in the direction that most benefits you and your family.

Ask the people who are giving you grief about this exactly what are they doing to improve the city? Are they on the city council spearheading anti-crime and/or clean up programs? Are they doing significant volunteer work in their off hours with/for the homeless population?

That kind of broad and cliched judgement of someone’s personal, non-harmful choices really pisses me off.

I’m sorry you are on the receiving end of such ridiculous negative judgements. Move and enjoy your new life!

seekingwolf's avatar


Yeah, where I want to move, it’s definitely not the suburbs. I grew up with no neighbours, and had 8+ acres of land. I would not want to live in the suburbs because to me, that sort of ruins the appeal of living in the country: no neighbours, fields, good smell, no noise, etc.

But yeah, it would be better for the environment to stay in this dump but I’m not willing to sacrifice my happiness for that. Too many people, too much crime, etc. I do plan to get a prius or something someday, so I guess that will help, and I can save on gas! I already get almost 40 mpg in my current car.

I will move as soon as I am able but it will be a while, sadly. :/ It sucks, having to drive to my gym to walk around, because walking around the city is not safe and it smells bad.

hominid's avatar

@seekingwolf: ”“Well you just don’t want to be around black people” and accuse me of being racist.”

I’m thinking I’d want to move as far away from these people as possible.

seekingwolf's avatar


Honestly, it just adds yet another reason to move: to spite them.
“Sorry, I can’t hear you over the sound of the birds and the lack of shootings”

JLeslie's avatar

@seekingwolf Rural is different in my mind. I understood you lived in a rural area previously, I was just making a comment on suburban sprawl and it’s negatives, and how it can be perceived or criticized as immoral.

You certainly should not stay to prove you aren’t racist to them. You don’t sound racist to me at all, they are being ridiculous. It appears racist because the black inner city has a lot of black on black crime and possibly some other undesirable things, and the country is probably very white, but the crime is where it is, stating a fact is not racist. If white people stay in the city then will there be less crime? If so, then is that racist? It’s a viscious circle. The liberal in me wants to improve things in the city for everyone and address the underlying problems that lead to crime, school drop out rates, antisocial behavior and alike. Regardless of race or ethnicity I want better lives for people. You don’t have to live in a bad area or a place that diesn’t “fit” you well to prove you aren’t racist, that’s ridiculous.

seekingwolf's avatar


I think they do think that if the white folks stay, there will be less crime. That’s what the mayor talks about. That if the “White people” Stay, then they will invest in the community and bring it up to a better standard, property values increase, more money to go around, etc.. I don’t know if it’s true or not but I have read about how white flight is what brought about the ghettos in the inner city. All the white folks took their money and their families and moved out to nicer areas and the cities languished. At the end of the day though, I see lots of people acting badly here, of all races.

You’re right, it’s a vicious cycle. It’s been decades of each race blaming each other for different problems in the city.

Bill1939's avatar

Even if conditions in the city where you live were wonderful, the advantages of relatively rural life (and the fact that you have family there) makes moving there a good idea. Given that you would be only a half-hour or so away, the advantages that urban life offers will still be accessible. Ignore the emotional blackmail being used against you and make the move.

seekingwolf's avatar

Thanks guys. It will be a while before I move but I do plan to do it in the nearish (few years) future.

elbanditoroso's avatar

Sorry, no one can place a moral obligation on you. (Didn’t you read Atlas Shrugged?)

You can only place a moral obligation on yourself. Your mind, your morals, end of subject.

In the final analysis, you are the one who has to be happy with where you live – not the mayor, not the minister, not the NAACP, not the city manager.

I react negatively when someone tries to guilt-trip me into doing something against my nature.

jca's avatar

Your city’s neighbor wants to discourage people from leaving because it lowers the tax base and it makes her look bad, as a mayor.

ibstubro's avatar

Personally, @seekingwolf, I don’t think it’s a valid argument in your case, or even that you are the target of the mayor’s wrath.

People that were raised in, or have a vested interest in a city should try to help keep that city vital.

To your friends that criticize you, you can cite statistics on rural flight and your choice to validate your childhood upbringing.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Your friends are ridiculous.

Cupcake's avatar

Your Mayor places the responsibility of peace, justice and property value on middle class white people? That’s bullshit.

Of course it’s not immoral to move out of the city.

I must say, though, that I understand the train of thought, to an extent. I live in a smallish city that facing many similar struggles… <50% high school graduation rate, very high murder per capita rate, gangs, drugs, poverty, etc. One of our major differences is that the cost of living/taxes in the city are much lower than surrounding areas.

I do believe that a strong middle class will help to dilute these problems, but the issues with that are many. For one, most middle class people do not want to “sacrifice” their children. The transition time for improving neighborhoods and schools is too long, and the stakes for ones children are too high. And two, the complexities that limit upward mobility from poverty to middle class are far beyond the scope of this question. There are forces at play here that keep poor people poor and that is far bigger than “keep white middle-class people in the city”.

So I’m kind of in your boat here. I live in the city because of a few advantages. As my young children approach school age, I will constantly re-evaluate my choice to live in the city. Some of my friends look down on me for that. Too bad. My safety and my children are more important to me than whether some people think that I am abandoning the city.

ibstubro's avatar

The suburbs are the mutual enemy of both rural and urban areas. Swallowing up farm ground while draining diversity from cities and talent from the farms.

Personally, I think the most important thing is to make use of existing infrastructure, i.e. “buy used”.

LuckyGuy's avatar

You are doing what is best for you and your family. That goes for @Cupcake as well.

It should not be your job to turn around ”<50% high school graduation rate, very high murder per capita rate, gangs, drugs, poverty, etc.” Your presence has already helped a little. That is enough.

@Cupcake When your kids enter school and you see the high percentage of single parent kids with absolutely no guidance or positive role model you will understand the issues is much bigger than you. You need to do what is best for your kids. You might begin to investigate districts that are populated by families that have educated, working parents who care about their children’s education such as, Bright On, or Pitch Fork, or Geese. That will help your children much more than the nebulous promise of the “diversity experience.”
Your life will be much better after the move. I’m not telling you something you didn’t already know.

I agree with @ibstubro . Buying used is much kinder on the environment than building new city structures.

Coloma's avatar

Morally wrong? That’s insane, if I were you I would tell my friends that the choices you make are not their business and that choosing to live rural is morally sound, not the other way around. Putting your health and safety and inner peace first is a personal moral choice to operate from your best self which therefore benefits others.
Pffft, I have never heard of anything so stupid in my life. haha

LuckyGuy's avatar

Also, don’t let anyone play the emissions, and energy usage card against you. Sure you will drive more than they – maybe 600 gallons of oil extra per year. But, if you heat with wood you will be saving the equivalent of about 700 gallons of oil per year.

hominid's avatar

@LuckyGuy: “But, if you heat with wood you will be saving the equivalent of about 700 gallons of oil per year.”

…and killing my air quality in the process, assuring that I will need to avoid outdoor activity.

I think the details/pissing-match over what lifestyle is more environment-friendly, or which one will bring about the most change in particular neighborhoods is a dead-end. Much of the large-scale environmental destruction is not about driving 5 miles to work vs. 15 miles to work. Any changes that would be really be necessary to do some real good would require more than your occasional consumer activism. And I suspect that @seekingwolf‘s friends would be unwilling to do any of it. Their justification for their actions are coming after the decisions they have already made, and they require very little sacrifice.

If we are going to play the game at the level of @seekingwolf‘s friends, we’re likely not going to stop with reusing existing structures and living in cities in order to hope that our presence encourages change. It will require behavioral changes that are large and complex. But even on a small scale, the calculations will be more complex than portrayed. It might make more sense to move to the suburbs but give up drinking coffee, for example. There are plenty of variables to weigh. But there is one thing that I can guarantee: @seekingwolf‘s friends hands are likely dripping in blood while they lecture the OP about wanting to move.

If we are interested in social and environmental change, the end goal is likely to increase the amount of human happiness and reduce suffering. It should be possible to to accomplish this in ways that don’t hold people to standards that would require tremendous of amounts of unhappiness. And it certainly should be possible to approach these issues without being total dicks, like the people lecturing @seekingwolf.

gailcalled's avatar

Every community, no matter its size, has social and economic issues that need to be addressed. You can easily do volunteer work to improve your particular community.

My very rural community has need of mentoring programs in the middle school, soup kitchens, help in the old-age homes, meals-on-wheels in the outlying districts (particulary in bad weather) and dozens of other issues.

Aster's avatar

You have no moral obligation to stay in a city that’s going downhill. I find that attitude to be stupid , naive and coming from jealous “friends.” As if your staying in the city will in any way make it come to life and reduce it’s crime rate.
Idiots. Ignore them.

Pandora's avatar

There are only certain situations where I say one should stay where they live because it becomes about morality. For instance, fracking. If you worked for a company that was involved in fracking in the community, you should not be allowed to spread your poison and live somewhere clean.
Or any company that dirties or ruins the community. If you claim the product is so good for people, than you should be forced to live there too.

Or if you are a mayor of the community or counsel person. Any official that tha deals with the public and gets their hard earn tax money for their salary should have to deal with the community on a daily bases. You shouldn’t be allowed to dictate how others live and not have to put up with it yourself.
Leaders should lead from the front and not the back.

If however you simply have a regular joe job that doesn’t harm the community and you pay local taxes, than you should be allowed to live anywhere you want.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I moved from Wichita to a much smaller town because I thought it was best for my kids.

wildpotato's avatar

Your friends’ arguments both sound crazy to me. Invest in the city’s future – how, exactly? By spending money in a city, you support mostly middlemen, resellers, and transportation of goods – not as much the actual producers of goods. With the notable exception of public transportation, city life is significantly less sustainable than rural life, and there are far fewer opportunities to make your spending truly local to your community.

And it’s ridiculous to automatically attribute a desire to move to the country to racism. Though it does kind of weird me out that there are so few black, Asian, middle Eastern, and Latino folks out here. The cultural stew is the one thing I really miss about the city.

@hominid Using wood for heat (with a newer, EPA approved stove or insert) can actually reduce net greenhouse gas emissions when compared to heating with electricity generated by coal or oil, plus wood is an indigenous and renewable resource.

majorrich's avatar

I believe that once one who has spent a significant amount of time in a rural environ, urban environs feel much more confining and they long for space. In Monte Pythonese, “Pining for the Fjords”. I can empathize with the OP in that I spent a significant amount of my childhood on property adjoining a farm, and the nearest neighbor was not visible from our house. Now living in the city, I long for space again. Now my wife wants to downsize to a much smaller house or condominium. I am having significant problems making myself buy into her plans. My illness and her plans make perfect sense, but I sense I will feel very claustrophobic.

LuckyGuy's avatar

@hominid You are thinking of the old, air tight stoves from before the days of emission controls and improved combustion. The new stoves have reburners and/or catalytic converters which put out no smoke when running. There is a bit when you start them but after they get up to the light-off temperature, you flip the bypass lever and cat converter lights off putting out extra heat and no smoke. The efficiency has jumped from 40% to over 73%. Times have changed.
Also a log that is on the ground and decaying puts the same amount of CO2 and heat into the air as one that is burning in a stove. It just does it slowly without giving the user any benefit. When you burn one in your stove you are reducing your need for heating oil or natural gas.
Here’s a good rule of thumb. 20 pounds of wood has the same heat content as one gallon of heating oil. The big difference is the wood is renewable and is no net CO2 while oil is not renewable and all the CO2 adds to greenhouse emissions.
The folks in rural communities can easily end up with a smaller carbon footprint than city dwellers.

hominid's avatar

@LuckyGuy: “The folks in rural communities can easily end up with a smaller carbon footprint than city dwellers.”

This is quite possible. But five years ago, I had to move from a rural area to the suburbs because of my asthma. Unfortunately, the fire pit trend (and wood heating) made its way to suburban MA 2 years ago, so it’s closed windows, sweating, and Albuterol for me. I may need to move to the city soon because the air is significantly cleaner there.

LuckyGuy's avatar

@hominid Ugh. No wonder you are down on them. My stove puts out nothing. All you see are shimmering heat waves coming out of the stack just like the oil furnace stack.
Fire pits put out a lot of particulates and stink up the area if they burn trash. Most communities have laws against them.

hominid's avatar

@LuckyGuy: “Most communities have laws against them.”

Massachusetts is not terribly progressive in this area. Right now, it’s primarily wealthy cities (Cambridge, etc).

dappled_leaves's avatar

Well, yes. Urban sprawl is a huge, unnecessary problem. People move away from the urban core, to where they can find a reasonable amount of quiet and have a reasonable amount of traffic commuting. Problem is, everyone follows them, and the noise and traffic become unreasonable. So, money is poured into creating more housing further away, and better roads to get people there. And it just continues infinitely, while there is an urban core full of perfectly good housing that should be used. People just keep reaching for an ideal that cannot be maintained, and degrade the environment in the process. It’s a nightmare.

seekingwolf's avatar

If it makes any difference, I prefer older homes and I plan to come back and keep the family home, which is 100s of years old on several acres. Again, not really any neighbours.
And no, it’s not wood burning. Natural gas actually does reach out there so there’s that.

There is a lot of perfectly good housing here in the city. It’s not the housing that repels me away. It’s the neighborhood, the people, the environment.

I can’t stand urban culture or the environment. I feel so boxed in. I don’t identify with the people. It just all feels very foreign and strange to me, despite living here for a while. I’m clearly not happy here and yeah, maybe it’s the more environmentally-sound choice but I don’t really care. I need to get out of here someday.

dappled_leaves's avatar

@seekingwolf Yes, but that’s part of the problem. If people like you would stay, you would be the neighbourhood, the people, the environment.

seekingwolf's avatar

@dappled_leaves Are you implying that I have some moral responsibility to stay?

It seems unfair to expect me to stay in the hopes that “more like me would stay”, all the while, I’m suffering because it smells, no forests, no trees, and the latest felons-of-the-week are shooting each other up every weekend, making it even less likely for me to want to stay because how can you invest/want to stay in a city that you feel unsafe? In a place where you have no respect or trust in those who live here?

Because that’s pretty much where I’m at. I’m fed up.

canidmajor's avatar

I don’t get the impression that @seekingwolf is running away from city life, more that he is going to something he prefers.

seekingwolf's avatar


It’s mostly going to the country because I like it but there is definitely a sense of running away from the city because I dislike it here so much and I’m disgusted with the people and the environment.

But it was never “Any place would be better than here!”. Because I grew up in the country, and I know how good life is out there. And I feel like right now, I have a lower quality of life in the city and I miss many aspects of country living.

Coloma's avatar

Well..I can tell you all that after living in larger cities when I was younger and then living rural for years, there is no way I want to live in a city again. I lived “in town” last year and hated it, sure, I liked some of the conveniances like movie theaters and massage, haha, but…I prefer living on acreage and having peace. Now I am living on a 10 acre property with city amenities just a few miles away. I do not like this town as much as my old town but I love this property with a great view, horses, my geese again, and the peacefulness of it all.

Once you get used to living in a serene environment you don’t want to leave at all. I go out 2–3x a week or so for work, groceries, errands and them come home to sit on the porch and enjoy the view in my avatar.

Dutchess_III's avatar

So you’re back in the country? Do you have Marwyn back?

dappled_leaves's avatar

@Coloma I have no beef against small towns or rural living. It’s the suburbs of large cities that anger me.

Coloma's avatar

@dappled_leaves Oh yeah, I didn’t take it that way. Agreed, the burbs suck, in all respects.
@Dutchess_III Yep, living with Marwyn on my friends ranch. :-)

Dutchess_III's avatar

Oh yay! PM me with the details. I know how miserable you are!

seekingwolf's avatar


You’re making me cry. I miss the country so much. I swear, being here is hurting my mental health sometimes!

Coloma's avatar

@seekingwolf I don’t doubt it a bit. Get thee back to nature and peace. :-)

ibstubro's avatar

HOW could returning to your roots be morally wrong?

rojo's avatar

No, subsidizing an urban culture is morally bankrupt.

I know in my younger years friends and family would ask “Why don’t you move to Houston? You could make twice the money doing the same thing.” And my answer was always the same:

“Because it is Houston, and I like it here”

tinyfaery's avatar

No. But I would encourage you to think more deeply about your reasoning.

seekingwolf's avatar

@tinyfaery What do you mean?

JLeslie's avatar

@seekingwolf So, the mayor and others talk about white flight leaving the city in a horrible state and they don’t see how they are basically saying if we have mostly minorities in the city, the city will be a dangerous mess? I understand that once an area is viewed as a minority area it’s very difficult to get white people to go back, or people with money to go back, there is a tipping point and it can take 20+ years for the city to rejuvinate if it ever does. Then if it does, people cry about the poor being displaced, which I worry about myself. Towns and cities commonly go through life cycles. Some cities don’t succumb to it, but many do.

The mayor does worry about the tax base, @jca is right about that. If the city is perceived as dangerous there is less property tax collected, less tax from tourism, and tax from businesses. Then the people living there often need the most government help, but the city is collecting very little. He may also worry about crime and the city going down hill iin general, there might be some geniuine love for his city.

The real answer is to address the underlying reasons for crime and poverty, not that someone born and raised in rural America longs to go home.

seekingwolf's avatar


Yeah, pretty much. I mean, it’s not like lil’ ole me is going to fix these problems. What’s funny is that the mayor and all these people saying this crap are really big on civil rights and banishing racial stereotypes. Yet they don’t see how what they are saying is “We need more white people in here to flourish!”

For the record, I can’t stand our mayor. She is actually grew up in the bad areas here. Her husband is a felon but she will get angry if you bring that up and burble on about how “he was compelled to do that crime because he had bad friends” or other blame-shifting crap. People voted her in thinking that she could fix the problems here. Aside from a few photo ops, complaining about the school budget (which she has NO control over and never will), and firing the best police chief we’ve ever had, well, she hasn’t done much.

Anyway, yeah, this city needs an overhaul but even if it did improve 10-fold, the fact remains, I don’t want to live here, or any city. A city I most enjoyed my time in was London and I STILL wouldn’t want to live there. I was raised in the country and so that has “spoiled” me.

LuckyGuy's avatar

If you move out taking some tax base they call it “white flight”. If you move in and increase the tax base they call it “gentrification”.
Screw ‘em. Come on over to the rural side. We can breathe the clean air, enjoy the peace and quiet, and friendly neighbors and look at the Andromeda Galaxy with our binoculars together.
The keys to the Tahoe are in the ignition – where they belong. Feel free to borrow it if you need to haul your trailer. (The turn signals need to be turned off by hand. Don’t forget or you’ll look like old Mrs McKeever in her 1987 Buick.)

JLeslie's avatar

@seekingwolf What city are you in?

gailcalled's avatar

@LuckyGuy; I can see M31 without binocs. if I use my peripheral vision.

LuckyGuy's avatar

@gailcalled Yep. Exactly!

@seekingwolf Kimmy the maillady just told me Margaret’s dog, Bo, was hit by Rob’s truck on Sunday. The dog ran out in front and he just couldn’t stop. We are dropping off some dinner at her place tonight.
Rob is a wreck. Poor guy.

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