Contrary to popular belief there was not a lot of migration in the United States during this pandemic.
New figures released Wednesday by the U.S. Census Bureau show that the proportion of people who moved over the past year fell to its lowest level in the 73 years that it has been tracked, in contradiction to popular anecdotes that people left cities en masse to escape COVID-19 restrictions or in search of more bucolic lifestyles.
“Millennials living in New York City do not make up the world,” joked Thomas Cooke, a demographic consultant in Connecticut. “My millennial daughter’s friends who lived in Williamsburg, many of them returned home. Although it felt like the entire world was moving at once, .”
In 2021, more 27million people (or 8.4%) reported that they had moved within the last year according to the Current Population Survey Annual Economic Supplement.
In comparison, 9.3% U.S. residents moved between 2019 and 2020.. Three decades ago, that figure was 17%.
Besides giving rise to shelter-in-place restrictions, the COVID-19 pandemic may have forced people to postpone life-cycle events such as marriages or having babies that often lead to moves. William Frey, a senior fellow with The Brookings Institution, stated that the U.S. has been experiencing a long-term decline in migration over the past decades.
” These numbers show that a lot people didn’t move, or moved at a slower pace,” Mr. Frey stated. “But it’s a longer-term trend.”
That’s not to say that nobody moved. Last year’s mobility pattern change was more noticeable in long-distance moves from one state to another than in moves within a single state or county. Mr. Frey suggested that the pandemic may have prompted some of those 4.3 million people to move to another state.
Demographic expert Andrew Beveridge used data from change-of-address to show that even though people left New York at the peak of the pandemic in 2001, especially those living in wealthy neighborhoods, these neighborhoods recovered their numbers months later. In general, Mr. Beveridge stated that he is not surprised by the decline in migration.
” The same thing happened during financial crisis. Nobody moved. Nobody married. “Nobody had children,” stated Mr. Beveridge. He is a sociology professor at Queens College, the Graduate School and University Center of the City University of New York. “All demographic changes sort of screeches at a halt .”
Other factors that contributed to Americans staying put include an aging population; lower moving rates for older people; the possibility to telecommute to work which allowed some workers to switch jobs without having to move; rising rents and home prices that kept some would be movers in place, according to demographers.
” “I believe the boom in remote work due to COVID combined with the economic shock are the main reasons,” stated Mary Craigle, bureau chief at Montana’s Research and Information Services.
Mobility in the U.S. has been on a downward slide since 1985 when 20% of U.S. residents moved. This was a time when Baby Boomers were young adults starting careers, marrying, and starting families. According to Mr. Frey’s analysis last year, millennials are now in the same age bracket as their Baby Boomer counterparts in the mid -1980s. They are held back by high housing costs and underemployment.
Advancements in telecommunications and transportation have contributed to the decades-long decline in U.S. mobility. People can now work remotely, get education and even visit their family and friends. According to Mr. Cooke (a professor emeritus from the University of Connecticut), the highway system has allowed people to work 50 far away from their homes in the second half of the 20th century.
Americans have become less mobile over the years due to rising economic insecurity. “When there’s insecurity people value what they already own,” he stated. The slowdown in American mobility can be attributed to a stagnation in U.S. population dynamics. The 2020 census showed that the U.S. experienced a 7.4% growth rate over the past decade, which is the slowest rate of growth since 1930. Earlier this week, the Census Bureau revealed that the population center of the U.S. moved only 11.8 miles, the smallest shift in 100 years.
This was reported by The Associated Press.
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