Census: Americans Not Moving Around Like They Used To

Mover rate reaches all-time low amid struggling labor and housing markets.

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The vast majority of Americans are staying put these days, according to a new Census Bureau report released Tuesday.

A mere 11.6 percent of people changed residences last year, the lowest figure on record since the agency began collecting statistics on migration patterns in 1948. The rate was more than 20 percent in 1985 and about 12.5 percent in 2009.

"Although many of us still move over the course of a year, we are now less likely to do so," Alison Fields, chief of the Census Bureau's Journey-to-Work and Migration Statistics branch, wrote in a report. "We used to be a much more mobile society."

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The likely culprit for the downward trend in mobility? A hobbled housing market and a subpar labor outlook, experts say.

The financial crisis and housing market meltdown affected virtually every state's economy in some manner, with only natural resource-rich locales such as Texas and North Dakota escaping the worst of the recession's ravages. With most states facing similar economic headwinds, Americans had little incentive to move around to improve their financial situations.

Still, for those who did move, distance was a good indicator of the reasons behind relocating, according to a separate study included in the Census release Tuesday. When people moved 500 miles or more, 43.9 percent cited employment-related reasons compared with housing-related reasons, given by only 11.6 percent. On the flip side, for shorter-distance moves, 40 percent said housing motivated their move.

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The most common state-to-state moves between 2009 and 2010 were from California to Texas, with almost 69,000 Americans relocating to the Lone Star state. Californians also moved in large numbers to Arizona, Washington, and Nevada. The runner-up spot went to more than 55,000 New Yorkers fleeing the cold winters of New England for the balmy beaches of Florida.

Although some Americans relocated, the vast majority of people—59 percent—lived in the state in which they were born. The Midwest had the highest rate of homebodies, 70 percent, while the West had the lowest percentage at 50 percent.

mhandley@usnews.com