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.

Read Time: 1 minute

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.'"

Monday, December 17, 2012 in The Atlantic Cities

Chicago Commute

The Right to Mobility

As we consider how to decarbonize transportation, preserving mobility, especially for lower- and middle-income people, must be a priority.

January 26, 2023 - Angie Schmitt

Green bike lane with flexible delineators and textures paint in Hoboken, New Jersey

America’s Best New Bike Lanes

PeopleForBikes highlights some of the most exciting new bike infrastructure projects completed in 2022.

January 31, 2023 - PeopleforBikes

Sharrow bike markings on black asphalt two-lane road with snowy trees

Early Sharrow Booster: ‘I Was Wrong’

The lane marking was meant to raise awareness and instill shared respect among drivers and cyclists. But their inefficiency has led supporters to denounce sharrows, pushing instead for more robust bike infrastructure that truly protects riders.

January 26, 2023 - Streetsblog USA

A tent covered in blue and black tarps sits on a downtown Los Angeles sidewalk with the white ziggurat-topped L.A. City Hall looming in the background

L.A. County Towns Clash Over Homelessness Policies

Local governments often come to different conclusions about how to address homelessness within their respective borders, but varying approaches only exacerbate the problem.

February 3 - Shelterforce Magazine

Rendering of mixed-use development with parks and stormwater retention on former Houston landfill site

A Mixed-Use Vision for Houston Landfill Site

A local nonprofit is urging the city to consider adding mixed-use development to the site, which city officials plan to turn into a stormwater detention facility.

February 3 - Urban Edge

Aerial view of downtown Milwaukee, Wisconsin at sunset

Milwaukee County Makes Substantial Progress on Homelessness

In 2022, the county’s point-in-time count of unhoused people reflected just 18 individuals, the lowest in the country.

February 3 - Urban Milwaukee