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From Home Furnishing Business

Mobility in America: Part 2 What Motivates People to Move

Statistically Speaking


With Mobility in America at an all-time historical low and only 11.2 percent of people moving from 2015 to 2016, what drives the current movers and leads them to change residence? Picking up from the “who” of last month’s article, we now dive into “why” people have moved since 2000 and take note of both the growing and declining trends. Two major reasons to move, jobs and a desire or need for new or different housing, took hits during the recession. Since the end of the recession, jobs and housing have gained traction again as reasons for mobility. However, as shown in the previous month’s article, Americans need more than a healthy economy and a recovering housing industry to propel them to move.


Table A shows that for 42.2 percent of the 35.1 million movers from 2015 to 2016, the biggest reason to move continues to be a desire for new or different housing. Recovering from the recession, job related moves are back up to just over 20 percent of movers since 2006-2007. Meanwhile, over a quarter of American movers (27.4 percent) changed residence last year due to a change in family status.

Table A












Moving Reasons Vary by Age

The propensity to move varies by age group as does the reason (Table B). But one thing is certain, the older one gets the less likely he or she is to change residence for any reason. (See Statistically Speaking, April 2017 issue for additional age related moving data.)

Young adults ages 20 to 29 dominated all categories for reasons to move in terms of numbers of adult movers -- the principle reason for moving being housing-related (3.7 million movers). These young movers are starting new households, moving into their own apartments or homes or changing residences for various reasons.  Job-related moves also dominated this age group more than any other with 3.0 million moving for employment reasons.

For adults 30 to 44 (a 15-year age span), housing-related moves were by far more important than any other category (3.6 million movers) and almost double employment reasons.

Adults 45 to 64 (20 year span) are a large part of the U.S. population and contain a chunk of baby boomers on the back end. However these older adults were most likely to stay put with 2.4 million movers citing housing-related reasons for moves and only 1.1 million moving because of jobs.

Table B











The broad category reasons for moving – Family, Job, and Housing can be further segmented into more specific moving motivators.


Both Divorce and Marriage rates have been on a steady decline since 2000 – lowering a “change in marital status” as a key reason for moving (Table C). Down from a divorce rate of 4.0 in 2000 (rate per 1,000 total population) to 3.2 in 2014, more people are staying married. On the flip side, less people are getting married – decreasing from a marriage rate of 8.2 in 2000 to 6.9 in 2014.

Table C









Luckily more people moved to establish their own households from 2015 to 2016 – up to 12.2 percent of all movers from 10.4 percent in 2016 (Table D). Although slow to leave Mom and Dad’s home, more Millennials are venturing out on their own and forming households. This increase should continue steadily over next five years as Millennials age.

According to the National Association of Realtors, between 2008 and 2016 America added an average of 835,000 new households per year. For 50 years prior, it was 1.3 million per year.

Table D









Job Employment

Slow job growth this decade coupled with more conservative corporate transfer policies during recessionary times have kept people from moving for a new job or job transfer. However that trend is improving as only 7.8 percent of movers from 2009 to 2010 cited new jobs or transfers as reasons for moves, now up to 10.8 percent in 2016. Also on the rise is a desire to be closer to work and have an easier commute – up to 6.0 percent of movers from 2015 to 2016, almost double that of 2001. Other job related reasons for moves impacting less than 2 percent of movers included moving to look for work or after a lost job or retirement (Table E). 

Table E









A person was more likely to make an employment-related move based on the type of job (Table F). Professional and Service jobs are geared toward mobility more than any other type of employment, representing 23.3 percent and 21 percent of job-related movers respectively.

Table F










Continuing the historical trend, the strongest reason for a household move for any reason is simply the desire to upgrade to a nicer apartment or home (Table G). These movers represented 17.4 percent of the total in 2015/2016, up from 14.8 percent of movers between 2009 and 2010.

After a slowdown during the Great Recession, the desire for renters to own their own homes is trending up. Bottoming out at 4.6 percent of movers from 2009 to 2010, changing residence in order to stop renting and purchase a home grew to 5.9 percent of movers from 2015 to 2016.  Other housing-related reasons for moves 2015 to 2016 included wanting cheaper housing (8.2 percent of movers) and a desire for a less crime ridden neighborhood (3.1 percent).

Table G











Other Reasons to Move

Although minor, from 2015 to 2016, both health reasons and a desire for a better climate were listed as reasons for a move, slightly more than previous years, reflecting most likely our aging population (Table H). Attending or leaving college also increased as a reason as Millennials filled universities – jumping from 1.9 percent of movers in 2006/2007 to 3.2 percent in 2015/2016.

Table H










While the percentage of Americans moving has been on a steady decline since the mid – 20th century, both the job market and housing industry are on the upswing and Millennials are entering full adulthood. More opportunity and more young adults could give way to higher mobility in years to come.

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