Why are Americans Preferring to Stay Put?

Americans are less mobile than they were decades ago and it's unclear why. Possible explanations include the recession, habits based on family make-up, as well as telecommuting and job trends, but none of these proposed reasons can be easily proven.

1 minute read

December 19, 2012, 10:00 AM PST

By Erica Gutiérrez


According to recently released U.S. Census data [PDF] from the Current Population Survey, American mobility rates are at an all time low. “About 100 million people (aged 5 and up) lived in a different home or apartment in 2010 than they did in 2005” reports Eric Jaffe, “[b]ut that total is down from 107 million movers between 2000 and 2005, and the latest mobility rate is 10 points off the peak rate back in the mid-1970s.” The Census explains who is moving and where they are moving to, but not why.

"At the Conversable Economist, Timothy Taylor points us to a 2011 study that found America's declining mobility to be a bit of an ongoing mystery. That study considers a number of theories, but finds each of them flawed. It concludes [PDF]: "By most measures, internal migration in the United States is at a 30-year low. Migration rates have fallen for most distances, demographic and socioeconomic groups, and geographic areas. The widespread nature of the decrease suggests that the drop in mobility is not related to demographics, income, employment, labor-force participation, or homeownership."

"At the end of the day, writes Taylor, Americans might just be 'shifting their preferences away from being willing to move.'"

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