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U.S. Migration Reaches 72-Year Low

Staying in place is more and more the norm, even among historically mobile young people.
November 26, 2019, 1pm PST | Philip Rojc | @PhilipRojc
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Chuck Wagner

If U.S. migration trends are any indicator, we're living in a less-mobile, less-dynamic age. "For the first time since the Census Bureau began recording annual migration statistics, fewer than 10% of Americans changed residence in a single year, according to just-released data for 2018-19," William H. Frey writes.

Basing his discussion on the Census Bureau's newly-released data on geographic mobility, Frey notes that migration trends show a "fairly consistent decline since the late 1940s to 1960s period, when roughly one-fifth of Americans changed residence annually." As one might expect, the Great Recession further exacerbated that trend. But migration hasn't surged back up with the economy. 

"Especially noteworthy," Frey says, "are the migration declines for the nation's young adult population, now mostly occupied by millennials." Usually the population's most mobile segment, young adults aged 18-34 are increasingly staying put due to high housing costs, underemployment, and related factors. 

Frey notes that low migration may still be an aftereffect of the recession, in which case "mobility might rise somewhat for millennials and their Gen Z counterparts as the economy continues to prosper. Yet even so, these downward migration trends suggest a future of somewhat less demographic dynamism, cutting off people and places from broader economic changes and opportunities nationwide."

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Published on Friday, November 22, 2019 in Brookings
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