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Why Do People Move? Here Are the Top Reasons for Relocation

Following a move to the suburbs, trend analyst Matt Carmichael explores the question most demographers are asking: Why are Americans moving?

By Livability on August 24, 2022

iStock/Robert Daly

Throughout the last few years, many people have joined the ranks of relocators and uprooted their lives and homes to start fresh in a new city. In 2020, nearly 32 million Americans alone moved to a new home. That is roughly one in every eight people. Though these numbers are lower than historical data, that’s still a massive percentage of the population who are in the business of relocating. 

If you’re contemplating making a move and aren’t sure where to start, we’re here to help. 

The U.S. Census Bureau has a new report with a much bigger dataset about why people move. According to the report, almost half of movers said housing was why they relocated. Those reasons include wanting better neighborhoods and better homes, wanting to own rather than rent, and less pleasant reasons like being evicted.

The top five reasons why Americans move are:

  1. A new or better home/apartment (15 percent)
  2. New job or job transfer (11 percent)
  3. To establish own household (10 percent)
  4. A family reason (other than getting married or starting a household) (8 percent)
  5. Wanted to own a home rather than rent (7 percent)
  • The Census groups the reasons for moving into four overarching categories: housing (40 percent), family (25 percent), employment (20 percent) and other (15 percent). 

More than twice as many people move within their county as they move to another county. In other words, most moves are incredibly local. Think of moving from a city’s downtown district to a nearby neighborhood that’s more securely in the suburbs. If you look at why these two groups of movers relocate, you start to see some stark differences in the reasons. People who move within the same county are almost twice as likely to do so for housing-related reasons as those who move to a different county. The reasons people move to other counties are pretty evenly distributed among family, jobs and housing, whereas same-county movers do so disproportionately for housing-related reasons. Those who stayed in the same county were substantially less likely to cite new jobs than those who moved to different counties. Instead, they overwhelmingly said housing was the driver for their moves.

We know demographic shifts drive changes in what people look for in housing. For example, how many people moved because they had another child? Does having a first child predict a move better than having a third? At what point does a move happen because of schools instead of space? What percentage of people who are newlyweds move? How does that compare to the percentage of newly divorced who move? These are all great questions we can’t really answer with this data. But we can guess a little here and there, and regardless, we get a clear picture that the reasons for moving are complicated and vary significantly between groups, especially by the distance of the move.

Want to learn more? We recently conducted a survey that asked these questions and studied the relocation habits of Americans. You can find that information here.

This can be overwhelming, and we’re here to help. Check out our most recent ranking of the annual list of the Top 100 Best Places to Live in America

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