Moves hit 73-year low despite so-called pandemic migration

U.S. Census Bureau data show only 8.4% of U.S. residents reported moves

(iStock/Illustration by Kevin Rebong for The Real Deal)
(iStock/Illustration by Kevin Rebong for The Real Deal)

Stories of pandemic-spurred migration have dominated headlines and small talk over the past year, but recently released figures show the story couldn’t be further from the truth.

More than 27 million people reported moving in the previous year, accounting for 8.4 percent of residents, according to U.S. Census Bureau data reported by The Associated Press. While that figure may seem significant, it’s actually the lowest reported movement in 73 years.

From 2019 to 2020, 9.3 percent of residents reported moving. That’s compared to a high point recorded from 1984 to 1985, according to the AP, of 20 percent of American residents.

There was an uptick in types of moving, however, as 4.3 million residents decided to cross state lines in the previous year, according to the AP.

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But many of the reasons behind the supposed great migration also lend reasoning as to why more people stayed put than those in the previous seven decades.

One factor, demographers told the AP, was the widespread ability to telecommute to work, which allowed for greater flexibility without necessitating a move. Other potential factors for the lack of movement include an aging population, high prices heating up the housing and rental markets, shelter-in-place orders linked to COVID-19 and long-term migration patterns in the country.

Another reason cited for a decline in movement was the pandemic’s effect on major life events, such as weddings and having children, that often prompt major moves.

“The same thing happened during the financial crisis. Nobody moved. Nobody got married. Nobody had kids,” demographic expert Andrew Beveridge told the AP. “All demographic change sort of just screeches to a halt.”

[AP] — Holden Walter-Warner