This decision will affect not just where they live but how they see the world and how they vote.
The town is thriving, so the choice is not driven by necessity: to stay is not to be left behind but to choose a certain kind of life.
Once, many years ago, an actual Dutch woman, from Rotterdam, moved to town with her American husband.Orange City, the county seat of Sioux County, Iowa, is a square mile and a half of town, more or less, population six thousand, surrounded by fields in every direction.Sioux County is in the northwest corner of the state, and Orange City is isolated from the world outside—an hour over slow roads to the interstate, more than two hours to the airport in Omaha, nearly four to Des Moines.Orange City is small and cut off, but, unlike many such towns, it is not dying.Its Central Avenue is not the hollowed-out, boarded-up Main Street of twenty-first-century lore.She found the Dutchness of Orange City peculiar—the way that most people didn’t speak Dutch anymore but sprinkled their English with phrases that nobody had used in the Netherlands for a hundred years.In the early part of the twentieth century, the question of how much Dutchness to retain caused a religious schism in the town: the American Reformed Church broke off from the First Reformed Church in order to conduct services in English.Part of the worry is economic: if people become less willing to move for work, unemployment will persist in some places, and jobs will go unfilled in others.People staying put is one reason that regional inequality has risen. What does it mean that Americans are now moving less often than people in old European countries like France? Since the 2016 election, staying has taken on a political cast as well.Every June, a couple of weeks after Tulip Festival, another ritual is enacted: a hundred of the town’s children graduate from the high school.Each of them must then make a decision that will set the course of their lives—whether to leave Orange City or to stay.