Americans are less likely to move than they were in the 1980s, a study by the Joint Center for Housing Studies found. Just 10% of Americans moved between 2018 and 2019, according to the report, most often because they were looking for new or better housing. Forty years ago, mobility was around 20%.
JCHS used data from the American Community Survey and the Current Population Survey for its report. It found that despite a clear decline, there was “no consensus about any one factor that may be driving the historic declines in mobility. Instead, explanations appear to fall into three categories: demographic change, housing affordability, and labor.”
JCHS pointed out that people are less likely to move as they age, so with the aging of the boomer generation, a decline in mobility is to be expected. However, younger age groups are also less likely to change houses. The biggest decline is among movers in their 20s, who are typically the most likely to move, the data show.
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Affordability is a challenge, especially in metropolitan areas, but high costs are also hurting renters in rural areas.
Job-related issues could be keeping people in place, too. More households have two earners, the paper noted, which makes it harder to pick up and move for a job. This plays out in the data: 11.1% of dual-income households moved in 2018, compared to 14.4% of single-income households. More people working from home and fewer companies offering relocation packages are also keeping people in the same homes for longer.
The report found that homeowners, a relatively stable demographic, are actually becoming more mobile. After seeing owners increase their tenure in their homes after the recession, (mobility fell from 7% in 2006 to 4.5% five years later), homeowner mobility nearly regained pre-recession levels in 2018, rising to 6.3%. The American Housing Survey found that in 2017, owners were staying in their homes an average 16 years.
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Data for JCHS’s report was collected prior to the pandemic, but the paper acknowledges the potential impact COVID-19 might have on mobility. If there is an increase in moves, it’ll likely be among people downgrading their housing due to lost jobs or income during the quarantine.
“There may also be a substantial increase in evictions and foreclosures after temporary bans end, unless payment assistance is provided on a large scale. The consequences for mobility will likely not be clear for months or even years to come,” according to the paper.