Staying Put: Fewer Americans Moving Than Ever

The U-Haul business may be taking a hit, now that fewer Americans are on the move. According to an analysis of Census data, just 8 percent of Americans moved to a new house in the past year, the lowest share in more than 70 years. The number of Americans who switched homes in the past year, about 27 million, is the lowest ever recorded.

There is one obvious factor in the historic number of Americans staying put. "The pandemic and the lockdowns, and the fear of leaving the house...clearly slowed the process of people moving to another place," says Stephen Klineberg, professor at Rice University's Kinder Institute. "Being able to stay where you are and still be involved in work in different places...that has given more flexibility to people, and the need to move to be closer to where one works is less strong than it once was."

While the coronavirus pandemic is a major current factor, the trend of fewer Americans moving is part of a larger demographic shift that's been taking place for decades. Demographers say the share of Americans moving per year was around 20 percent in the 1950s and 60s, but has steadily declined since. "People are moving less today, partially because of the aging of the American population, the difference in the kinds of families that we have, and the difference in the technology that we have available," says Klineberg.

"The average woman during the Baby Boom period had 3.6 children," he continues. "The average number of children today per family is 1.7, so there's a major shift in the need to move to bigger houses."

The Baby Boom is not coming back, but Klineberg predicts the number of Americans moving won't stay at historically low levels, either. "I would expect there will be some return to the tendency to move toward better places and greater opportunities, once the pandemic is behind us," he says.

Photo: Photo by Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

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