Why fewer households are moving

Date posted: September 25, 2012

Statisticians tell us that we’re less of a nation on the move than we used to be. That is, fewer people are moving from one state to another. It’s been thought this was a result of the recession and poor housing market, which made it difficult for people to sell their homes. But, as N.C. State University economist Mike Walden explains, there may be another answer.

“Well … some researchers recently took a very hard look at the data we have on in-migration. And again … what we’re talking about here is moving a people from one state to another, not folks moving from other countries here to the U.S.

“And the researchers came to two conclusions after their hard look: First of all, what they found was that the rate of in-migration really hasn’t changed as much as previously thought. They found some problems in how in-migration had been measured in the past, and when they took account of those problems they’ve seen, not as much of a change as we had thought.

“Secondly, though they did, however, continue to see a downward trend in in-migration rates, but that trend really started in the mid-1990s, well before the decline in the housing market, which of course many have given as the cause for the decline in in-migration recently.

“And the researchers concluded — now this is just their conclusion — that some of this decline in in-migration may be a result of better information; that is, households often move because of seeking new jobs. And in the past, you may have heard from friends or second-hand information (such as), ‘Hey, there are jobs in North Carolina or South Carolina or Florida. So, let’s get up and move if we’ve lost our job in the state we’re living now.’ And they may have been wrong. That information may have been wrong.

“Now with the internet and better sources of information about jobs, the conclusion that these researchers found is that people, before they move, they’re actually searching the internet and seeing, well, is the assumption that there are jobs in a particular state — is that true? And if they find after they do their search, no, it’s not, they’re not going to move.

“So, again, I think this is another example of the impact that the internet and information technology is having on our world.”

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