Who is Moving Where?

What we say differs from what we do in terms of moving

By Matt Carmichael on March 24, 2015 at 4:25 pm CDT
Half of all interstate movers live in these counties

Nearly one in 10 Americans is fed up with where they live, according to newly published data from the U.S. Census Bureau. We want bigger, better, safer and more affordable space. Realtors and developers must be salivating at all that market turnover. But not so fast. It’s not that easy.

While a significant portion of the population might want to move, a much smaller percent actually do. Even more interesting, a nearly equal proportion of people who are satisfied with where they live move as do those who bill themselves as “unsatisfied.” The typical mover profile is younger, lower income and more likely to be renters than owners, according to the report. Essentially, once people have aged out of the 16 to 34 cohort, they have likely settled someplace they want to be for a while. Makes sense.

This preference vs. practice thing is worth exploring.

Years ago, there was a survey done that said that men reported doing the majority of the grocery shopping in the U.S. This was pretty groundbreaking stuff in terms of gender equality and really in terms of advertising. However, a close reading of the survey also showed that a greater majority of women said they did the bulk of the shopping.

That doesn’t mean that the men were wrong; it meant that in their heads they really were doing a lot of the shopping and that belief is important, too. In this case, the fat that people want to move but don’t could mean a couple of things. One is that they just feel that moving is too much of a pain (they should read our tips to make it easier) to bother. Or it could mean that something – likely something economic – held them in place. If that’s the case, then as economic conditions improve, we could see a pent-up demand for moving.

Who is moving?

Younger people (under 34) and especially college-educated younger people. Not surprisingly, these are exactly the people who cities and towns throughout the U.S. are fighting to attract. They have high income-potential, and they are mobile.

Where are people moving? The suburbs had a net gain of 2.2 million movers between 2013 and 2014, while principal cities lost 1.7 million. In the scheme of things, neither of those are big numbers. Because the fact of the matter is that in any given year not all that many people move. In the last year reported, about 35.7 million people moved, just 11.5 percent of the population. That’s almost half as many (by percents) as moved in 1948, when the Census began collecting this data.

The vast majority of those who do move don’t move very far. In fact, less than 3 million households move across state lines each year according to the Internal Revenue Service who tracks moving based on where people lived when they filed their tax returns each year. Half of all interstate movers live in just 42 metro areas. More than one in three U.S. counties see less than 100 households leave for another state.

The bottom line is this: Not that many people move. Those who do fit a profile that is highly sought after by cities looking to attract businesses. Those businesses are locating places where they can find that talent. One great way to attract talent is to be a livable place. As fewer and fewer people move, look for the livability race to keep heating up.

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