Despite fewer mobility barriers, millennials are staying put

Dive Brief:

  • Millennials today are changing addresses less often than previous generations did in their 20s and 30s despite facing fewer traditional barriers to geographic mobility — such as marriage, a mortgage and having children — according to a report from the Pew Research Center, which cites new Census Bureau data.

  • In 2016, 20% of millennials ages 25 to 35 said they lived at a different address in 2015 compared to 26% of their peers in each of 1963 and 2000 who said they had moved during the previous year. Slow recovery in the job market, a tighter lending climate and student debt were identified as factors keeping millennials from moving, particularly from rental to owned housing.

  • Moving activity is typically associated with economic health, so the slowdown among millennials as well as the broader American population is concerning, The Wall Street Journal reported, noting that 6% of millennial movers in 2016 said they did so for homeownership.

Dive Insight:

The factors Pew calls out as causing millennials to stay put apply broadly across generational lines today as the number of Americans on the move dwindles. Just 11.2% of Americans moved between 2015 and 2016 — the lowest level since 1948, which is when the Census Bureau began tracking the figure.

A recent report from Yale Law School Professor David Schleicher identified four factors that have emerged in the last half century that have inhibited mobility: homeownership subsidies, an increase in land-use restrictions, a rise in occupational licensing that limits where workers can move and municipal bankruptcy practices that extend the life of struggling cities’ services.

While most moves happen within the same local market, regional and national moving trends today see people trading coastal metros for inland ones with strong job growth and a low cost of living.

Markets like Charleston, SC, Asheville, NC, Washington, Portland, OR, and Denver are seeing strong in-migration that is doubly changing their demographic landscape and raising home values, according to

Additionally, the low cost of living in cities in the Midwest and Rust Belt is drawing households and companies there, though slow job growth and ongoing home price recovery in those markets are likely to raise continued challenges. 

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Filed Under: Residential Building Economy