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articles about “Migration

Americans Aren’t Yet Back on the Move

After rising in 2012, the percentage of people moving to a new home dropped in 2013 almost back down to the record-setting lows of 2011. Compared with the recession years, more Americans today are moving for a new job, but fewer are moving for a cheaper place to live.

Jed Kolko, Chief Economist
September 27, 2013

Americans move less than they used to. The percentage of Americans moving each year has dropped from 20% during the 1950s and 1960s, down to about 14% before and during the 2000s housing bubble, and then to a low point of 11.6% in 2011. The drop in mobility means that Americans are staying in the same house longer between moves: from 5 years, on average, in the 1950s and 1960s, to about 7 years before and during the bubble, and 8.6 years in 2013.

Last year the Census reported an increase in mobility in 2012 to 12.0%, led by an increase in longer-distance moves.  However, new 2013 data suggest that the mobility rebound we saw in 2012 might have been short-lived.

Mobility is Back Down in 2013
Using the Current Population Survey (CPS) microdata that underlie the published Census mobility tables and report (see note below), we found that mobility in 2013 dropped back down to 11.7%, just slightly above the 2011 all-time low of 11.6%. Clearly, Americans are not yet back on the move.

This graph shows the percent of Americans who moved in the past twelve months, as of March of each year.


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Why Do People Leave California?

Neither jobs nor rich people are fleeing California -- but the middle class and the poor are. The exodus slowed down during the recession, but now that home prices are rising again, more people will leave the state.

Jed Kolko, Chief Economist
February 12, 2013

A constant debate in California politics is whether jobs and people are leaving the state. This week, in fact, Texas Governor Rick Perry is in California, trying to lure businesses to his state. He won’t have much luck because jobs rarely move: in a typical year, just 25,000 jobs move out of California, and 16,000 jobs move in, out of an economy of 18 million jobs. In contrast, hundreds of thousands of people move in and out of California each year. Who are they, and why do they move?

Who Moves In and Out?
Here are the basic facts. In 2011, 562,000 people left California, and 468,000 came, according to the Census’s American Community Survey. That means 120 people moved out of California for every 100 people who moved in. Out-migration reached its peak in 2005, when 160 people moved out of California for every 100 people who moved in. The California exodus rose with the housing bubble and subsided in the recession. Lower home values in 2008-2011 made California more affordable, encouraging in-migration and discouraging out-migration, as well as pushing some California borrowers underwater, further discouraging out-migration.


Who leads the charge out of California? Even though California’s richer residents face high tax rates, lower-income households are more likely to leave. From 2005 to 2011, California lost 158 people with household incomes under $20,000 for every 100 who arrived, and 165 for every 100 people with household incomes between $20,000 and $40,000. In contrast, just slightly more people with household incomes in the $100,000-$200,000 range left than came to California (103 out per 100 in), and California actually gained a hair more people in the $200,000+ range than it lost (99 out per 100 in). The rich aren’t leaving California, but the poor and the middle class are.

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