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From Home Furnishing Business

Statistically Speaking: Mobility in America Part 3: Where People Are Moving

The third and final series on Mobility in America looks at where people are moving. Are more movers simply relocating to a nearby apartment or home? Is there migration into the cities from the suburbs? Are some more people moving to sunshine states? The answers may surprise you.

Despite the dramatic decline in the percent of Americans moving and changing residences over the last 60+ years, the patterns of mobility have shifted much less than might be expected. Once a country on the move, mobility reached a historical low from 2015 to 2016 with only 11.2 percent of the population moving to a different home or apartment. This compares to a 1948 peak of 20.3 percent.

After detailing the “who” and “why” in two previous articles on Mobility in America, the current issue explores “where” people are moving. Are more movers simply relocating to a nearby apartment or home? Is there migration into the cities from the suburbs? Are some more people moving to sunshine states? (Sources: U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Survey: (1) 2016 Annual Social and Economic Supplement and (2) Annual Geographical Mobility Rates 1948 to 2016)

Mobility by Year

While the percent of Americans moving has changed overtime, how far away they tend to move has not. Looking at the last 28 years, in 1987, 17.8 percent of the population moved compared the 11.2 percent from 2015 to 2016. Since that time, a slightly higher percentage of movers are moving to a different county within the same state – an increase from 18.3 percent (1987) to 21.3 percent (2016). Meanwhile, while fewer movers are relocating to a different state – down from 16.7 percent to 13.6 percent. (Table A)

Both long distance and shorter nearby moves have fallen by similar rates over the past 60+ years. Between 2015 and 2016, 61.6 percent of all movers relocated within the same county compared to 67 percent in 1948.  As shown in Table B, as a percent of the total population, just 6.9 percent of Americans made shorter moves last year within the same county, down from 13.6 percent in 1948. Different county and out of state moves dropped to just 3.9 percent of the total population in 2016.

As expected, metro areas have the most movers by far, with 64 percent of movers electing to stay within the same metropolitan area (Table D). At 16.7 percent, the next highest group of movers traded one metro area for another metro area between 2015 and 2016, while 9.3 percent of movers continued to reside in a nonmetro location.

Despite the perception that inner cities are increasing in desirability the data reflects differently (Table E). Actually a yearly average of 1.5 million movers have left Principal Metropolitan cities (urban areas) since 1985 while Metropolitan suburbs keep growing – increasing by an average of 2.9 million movers a year.

When it comes to the distance a homeowner moves versus a renter, what might be surprising to some is that the geographical mobility patterns among both renters and owners are very similar as depicted in Table F. At 60.7 percent owner-occupied units and 61.7 percent renter-occupied, the vast majority of movers in both housing types moved within the same county from 2015 to 2016. A higher percentage of homeowners moved to a different county within the same state (25.2 percent) versus 19.7 percent of movers that rented in the same year. Not surprisingly, movers from abroad account for a higher percentage of renter-occupied units (4.9 percent) rather than owner-occupied units (1.9 percent).

Regional Movers

Overall the sunshine states in the South and West had the most movers from 2015 to 2016. The South had the highest flow of people in and out of the region with Inmigrants and Outmigrants both over 900,000 people.  (See definitions below.) At 247,000 persons, the West had the most Net Internal Migration, with the South leading the way in total Net Migration (including movers from abroad) (Table G).

Table H shows the Net Internal Migration of movers (current residents moving within the country) over the last five years. Between 2012 and 2015, the South had on average the greatest net increase in population from movers each year.  However in 2015-2016, the West took over adding 247,000 additional people compared to 39,000 for the South. The Net Internal Migration in the Northeast and Midwest has been either null or negative for many years with more people leaving than moving in.

Movers from abroad relocate into all regions of the country (Table I). However, the South has been the greatest beneficiary over the last five years but with 497,000 movers from 2015 to 2016.

Although Net Internal Migration in the Northeast and Midwest has been null or negative over the last few years, the influx of movers from abroad over the last three years has increased their populations. Meanwhile, the South and West are still holding the most appeal for mobility.

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