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From Home Furnishing Business

Mobility in America Continues to Decline

This is the first in a two-part series on Mobility in America. Part 1 featured on the following pages, focuses on the profile of “who” is moving.  Part 2 in the upcoming June issue will detail where people and moving and what motivates them to move.

Once a nation of movers, Americans are increasingly less likely to sell their homes or leave their apartments and move across the country or even down the street.  With only 11.2 percent of people moving from 2015 to 2016, American mobility is at an all-time record low. Since the 1950’s, mobility has plummeted almost 50 percent – from 21.2 percent of the population changing residence – down to 11.2 percent in 2015 to 2016 (Table A). While the previous decade’s stagnant change in residence can be owed partly to the economy, this downturn has been steady for over forty years. 

Because a move often spurs a furniture or home furnishings purchase, the question for the industry then becomes, who is moving? According to the Census Bureau, many of the movers are non-married, under 35 renters, many with children. The closer to the poverty level, the more likely a person changes residence. This article is a snapshot of current movers and what factors might determine mobility at this time in America – age, marital status, owning versus renting, and poverty status.

Age of Movers

By far, younger adults moved the most from 2015 to 2016. Twenty-three percent of 20 to 24 year olds and 20.1 percent of 25 to 34 year olds moved last year – double that of 35 to 44 year olds (11.1 percent) (Table B). With increasing age, the percentage of an age group’s mobility declined significantly.

For example, less than 4 percent of adults over age 55 moved between 2015 and 2016. 

Fifty percent of all persons changing residence 2015 to 2016 were split evenly between children (24.9 percent) and young adults 25 to 34 (25 percent) (Table C). Of the 35.1 million movers, 23.7 million (67.3 percent of all movers) were under the age of 35.

Marital Status

Marital Status plays a major role in a person’s desire, ability and necessity to move (Table D). Not surprisingly, 17.2 percent of separated people moved in 2016 with never-married people following close behind at 15.8 percent. Eleven percent of divorced individuals moved last year, while only 7.4 percent of married individuals changed residence. Widowed individuals tend to stay put with only 5.1 percent in the category moving.

Table E shows that at 37.4 percent, single, never married people were the highest category of movers from 2015 to 2016. In the same time span, married individuals were the greatest portion of nonmovers at 41.5 percent. 

Owners vs. Renters

Just over one-third of the population lives in renter-occupied units. As expected, renters of housing units change residence much more often than owners of housing units (Table F).

Of the 108.2 million renters from 2015 to 2016, 24.8 million were movers (22.9 percent), compared to just 5 percent of owners. Only 10.3 million people in owner-occupied units moved last year, while 196.4 million homeowners remained in the same residence. 

Renters accounted for more than two thirds (70.6 percent) of movers from 2015 to 2016 (Table G). 

Poverty Status

 Although 13.5 percent of the population is below 100% of poverty (Figure 1 and Table H), 22.6 percent of movers were these lowest income households.  

Americans at 150% of poverty (incomes over $36,450 for a family of four) accounted for 66.4 percent of movers from 2015 and 2016 and 79 percent of nonmovers. 


Americans with higher household incomes (above $36,450 for a family of four) are choosing to stay in place – only 9.6% moving in 2016. As Table I shows, the poverty category with the lowest income had the highest percentage of Americans move over 2015 to 2016, 18.6 percent of those below 100% of poverty moved over last year. 

The series continues in the next issue.

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