Former New York Times reporter Kilborn examines the nomadic lifestyles of the estimated ten million American professionals “who were moved in the last year or two and will be moved again soon.”
The number of these “Relos” has boomed since the 1970s with the growth of the U.S. economy and foreign trade, giving rise to suburban communities across the country (Relovilles) where most residents are white, affluent and continually on-the-go. The author tells much of his story through portraits of nearly 20 Relo couples who create an “insular, portable, and parallel culture” as they move through the suburbs of Atlanta, Denver, Dallas and even Bombay and Beijing. Often starting out as top graduates at public universities in the Great Plains and Midwest, where job opportunities are limited, Relos transfer every few years within and across companies to get ahead. They often forego close ties to family, friends and the comforts of hometowns in exchange for higher salaries, growing home equity and a chance to enter senior management. “You cannot get to the top level of organizations without relocating,” says a graduate of Purdue University, which produces many Relo engineers and CEOs. Although Kilborn’s detailing of the ambitions, new homes and job situations of Relos can prove tedious at times—since most of the stories are alike—the author clearly evokes the rootlessness of their lives, with fathers often on the road; mothers at a loss without intimate female friends and struggling to integrate themselves and their children into new communities; and everyone anxious about when the next transfer will come.
A solid update on the American rat race.