Guest Column: Recent Data Shows More Americans Staying Put

By Brad Watts, W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research

It has been said that people are the most difficult resource to move, yet according to the U.S. Census Bureau CPS Geographic Mobility data, roughly 12.5 percent of the population changed residences between 2009 and 2010.  Although this data suggests that America is a nation of movers, recent levels of mobility represent a significant decline compared to a decade earlier, when 16.1 percent of the population changed residences between 1999 and 2000. 

As the chart on the right shows, mobility declined across all age groups, although younger age groups—which are the most mobile overall—saw the largest decrease in mobility rates during the past decade.  During the same period, mobility rates for persons in the oldest age categories, which typically represent retirees, remained relatively stable.  It should also be noted that the percentage of people who are moving long distances has also fallen; between 1999 and 2000, 23.4 percent of movers had migrated across a state line, versus only 14 percent during the 2009-2010 period.

Not surprisingly, the reasons for the change in mobility rates appear to be frequently economic in nature.  The reason that increased the most in percentage terms was “wanted cheaper housing,” while the percent of movers citing reasons related to desires such as “wanted own home, not rent” and “wanted new or better home/apartment” declined substantially.  Interestingly, the number of movers reporting that a “new job or job transfer” was the reason for the move also declined significantly, which would appear to reflect a lack of job opportunities during the period. 

Brad Watts can be reached at Watts@upjohn.org.  Originally posted May 25, 2011 on the Upjohn Institute blog.