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articles about “Migration

American Mobility Remains Stuck in Low Gear

11.7% of Americans moved in the past year, unchanged from the previous year. But more people moved in search of cheaper housing.

Jed Kolko, Chief Economist
September 17, 2014

Yesterday, the Census released the Current Population Survey (CPS) data, giving an up-to-date picture on how many Americans are moving, how far they’re going, and why they’re making that move. (See note.) The mobility rate remains at a low level: 11.7% of Americans moved in the year ending March 2014, unchanged from the year ending March 2013.

At this mobility rate, the typical American stays put eight and a half years between moves. Remember the old rule of thumb that people move every seven years? Well, that was true until around 2003. In fact, the mobility rate has been falling for decades, as we pointed out in this post last year. Back in the 1950s and 1960s, Americans moved every five years on average. That rose to every seven years by the turn of the century and has since increased to the current eight-and-a- half year rate.

In today’s post, we look at the 2014 data to highlight the most recent mobility trends.

No Reversal in the Long-Term Mobility Decline
With the percentage of Americans moving stuck at 11.7% in 2014, mobility remains near the all-time low of 11.6% in 2011. That’s considerably below the 14% rate from the early 2000s. The housing bust and recession offer possible explanations why people are stuck in place – things like negative home equity and few job opportunities to move for. Still, mobility also declined both before and during the housing bubble. Furthermore, mobility has barely budged since 2011 despite a significant drop in the percentage of borrowers with negative equity and a modest recovery in the job market.

MobilityRate … continue reading

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Where Americans Are Moving

Three times as many people moved from Los Angeles to Houston, and from New York to West Palm Beach, as the other way around. Most movers are toward counties with lower density, lower unemployment, and cheaper housing.

Jed Kolko, Chief Economist
September 4, 2014

Yesterday, the Census released new data on how many people moved between counties in the U.S. from 2008 to 2012.

We’ve analyzed the data at both the county and metro level, combining it with data on home prices, unemployment, density, and distance. (We focused on domestic moves, but the Census also reported moves from abroad.) There are a million ways to look at these data, but here are the three themes that stood out to us:

1. Most Moves are Short-Distance
Nearly half – 49% — of between-county moves are less than 100 miles (see note). Most of these, in fact, are very short moves: 38% of between-county moves are less than 50 miles. Another quarter are 100-500 miles, and the remaining quarter are more than 500 miles. Remember that these are among between-county moves only, not within-county moves, which are two-thirds of all domestic moves.

People who move (“movers” from now on) to expensive, central counties like San Francisco, Los Angeles, or Manhattan tend to come from farther away than movers to more affordable, more residential counties like Contra Costa (north and east of Oakland), San Bernardino (east of Los Angeles), and the Bronx – who often come from a neighboring expensive county. While the typical mover into Manhattan comes from 67 miles away, the typical mover into the Bronx comes from just 13 miles away – often from Manhattan, in fact. Movers into San Francisco come from 223 miles away, on average, compared with 31 miles among movers into Contra Costa County. Movers into Los Angeles come from 290 miles away, but movers into San Bernardino come from 56 miles away.

2. Top Moves Favor the Suburbs and the Sunbelt
The top between-county moves are all short-distance within a region or metro. Of the top 10 between-county moves, in fact, seven are among the large counties of Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, and San Bernardino in southern California. Los Angeles to Orange and the reverse move, Orange to Los Angeles, are #1 and #3, respectively:

Top 10 Between-County Moves
# From To Region or metro # of Movers
1 Los Angeles, CA Orange, CA Southern California 40,760
2 Los Angeles, CA San Bernardino, CA Southern California 38,495
3 Orange, CA Los Angeles, CA Southern California 31,676
4 Los Angeles, CA Riverside, CA Southern California 25,575
5 Miami-Dade, FL Broward, FL South Florida 23,952
6 San Bernardino, CA Los Angeles, CA Southern California 23,181
7 Wayne, MI Oakland, MI Detroit 22,937
8 San Bernardino, CA Riverside, CA Southern California 22,705
9 Cook, IL DuPage, IL Chicago 20,476
10 Riverside, CA San Bernardino, CA Southern California 19,761
Note: differences in number of movers may not be statistically significant.

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Cutting Housing Costs When Financial Hardship Strikes

If forced to spend less on housing, people would rather change where they live than whom they live with. Downsizing is the #1 way people would reduce their housing costs. Furthermore, renters are significantly more willing to move or get a roommate than homeowners are.

In good economic times as well as in bad, financial hardship can always strike. And when it does, people might have to cut back on housing, which is typically the largest household expense. However, cutting housing costs involves hard tradeoffs: moving can be expensive and a hassle, and living with family, friends, or strangers can be a challenge. To understand how people might make these tradeoffs, we asked 2,048 Americans in late March and early April 2014 the following question:

“If you experienced a major financial hardship (e.g., lost your job, unexpected medical bills), and you needed to cut back significantly on your housing costs, which of the following would you most likely do? Please select all that apply.”

Here’s what they told us.

Everyone’s Top Cost-Cutting Strategy: Downsizing
Facing financial hardship that required cutting back on housing, nearly 2 in 5 people (38%) would move to a smaller home — more than any other option by a wide margin. In fact, twice as many people would prefer downsizing than the next most popular actions of (1) renting out part of their home to a roommate or housemate or (2) moving to a more affordable neighborhood. Far fewer people would take the more radical actions of living in their car or not paying the rent or mortgage.

How Would You Cut Your Housing Costs If Hit With A Major Financial Hardship? Share
Move to a smaller home/apartment 38%
Rent out part of my home to a roommate/housemate 19%
Move to a more affordable neighborhood in the same city, metro area, or region 19%
Move to a more affordable city, metro area, or region 16%
Move into my parents’ home 14%
Move into my children’s (or other relative’s) home 8%
Rent out part of my home to vacationers/visitors 6%
Live in my car, office, or another place that’s not intended as housing 5%
Move into a non-relative’s home 4%
I would stay in my current home but stop paying the rent or mortgage 4%

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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.

MobilityRate_Chart

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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.

HomePrices_Migration_California

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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