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Pandemic Turns Urban Benefits to Hazards

One of my best friends always knew she was destined to live in New York City, the mecca of magazines. But, after a decade of living there, she's struggling to envision herself fulfilling major life goals such as starting a family while living in an expensive shoe box.

She moved to her parents' home in February to ride out the COVID-19 pandemic and doesn't know when, or if, she'll go back. I think it's safe to say my friend is far from alone in rethinking her location choices.

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The very things that make urban centers attractive to young people -- jobs, food and entertainment -- are now cast in the dangerous light of contagion. As more employers experiment with remote work, living in the city may no longer be a necessity of the job.

Kansas farmer Bill Roenbaugh wonders if this pandemic will slow the flow of young people leaving rural America. "We are demonstrating that we can do business successfully through the internet and remotely. I wonder if this won't stop the decline, at least, in people moving off the farm," he says.

Succession planning is a perennial problem, and Roenbaugh says half of his peers don't have anyone willing to take over the business. Location is a common challenge when hiring.

"I wonder if this event will change our society just a tiny bit, just enough that people look at the farm and say, 'You know what? It's kind of nice being out here,'" Roenbaugh says. "I don't know how many of those will come back or how fast they'll come back. Maybe this will be a turning point where we get to keep more kids on the farm."

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