I am not one for mushy demographic survey stats, but this one intrigued me because it incorporates Census findings and overlaps with housing sales. “Who Moves? Who Stays Put? Where’s Home?”
As a nation, the United States is often portrayed as restless and rootless. Census data, though, indicate that Americans are settling down. Only 13% of Americans changed residences between 2006 and 2007, the smallest share since the government began tracking this trend in the late 1940s.
A new Pew Social & Demographic Trends survey finds that most Americans have moved to a new community at least once in their lives, although a notable number—nearly four-in-ten—have never left the place in which they were born.1 Asked why they live where they do, movers most often cite the pull of economic opportunity. Stayers most often cite the tug of family and connections.
On the surface, this seems to contradict the surge in sales activity in 2004, 2005 and 2006 during the housing boom. However, NAR indicated that roughly 36% of all sales in 2004 were investor or vacation home sales. I interpret this as a surge of secondary housing, not primary, which is one of the reasons the surplus housing stock is going to be difficult to absorb over the next several years. Although I can’t find an updated version of those numbers (likely because they would not be rosy enough), I suspect they are nearly a non-factor now.
Exercise: try counting the number of times you have moved in your entire life, including higher education if applicable. I moved roughly every 4 years before I left for college, then every year of college (2x) and every 2 years until I owned my first house. After that I averaged once every 6 years. 8 states. I am sick of moving.
The findings that interested me most:
- Most adults (57%) have not lived outside their current home state in the U.S. At the opposite end of the spectrum, 15% have lived in four or more states.
- More than one-in-five U.S.-born adults (23%) say the place they consider home in their heart isn’t where they’re living now. And among those who have lived in two or more communities, fully 38% say they aren’t living in their “heart home” now.
- The Midwest is the most rooted region: 46% of adult residents there say they have spent their entire life in one community. The least rooted is the West, where only 30% of adult residents have stayed in their hometown. Residents of the South (36%) and East (38%) fall in between.
- College education is a key marker of the likelihood to move: Three-quarters of college graduates (77%) have changed communities at least once, compared with just over half (56%) of those with a high school diploma or less. College graduates also are more likely to have lived in multiple states.
- Movers are more likely than stayers to say there is a good chance that they will move in the next five years. Not surprisingly, only a third of those who rate their current communities highly predict they’ll move within five years, compared with half of those who give their current communities a poor rating.