Record Levels of Immobility Unlikely to Be Affected by COVID and Remote Work Moves

In March 2020, over 90.7% of Americans lived in the same home as they did 12 months prior – a record high. Sixty years earlier in March 1960, only 80.1% of Americans lived in the same home as they did 12 months ago.

This is a staggering demographic shift. If 19.9% of Americans moved in 2019-20, as they did in 1959-60, that would be 62,394,000 moves. Instead, only 28,814,000 people moved. That means that increased immobility is associated with 33,580,000 fewer moves in 2019-20 compared to 1959-60.

Americans are relatively immobile – and have been for a long time – and any moves related to COVID and the expansion of remote working will not change that.

Early analyses suggest that the number of permanent moves as a consequence of the pandemic and shift to remote work has been quite modest: Perhaps between 500,000 and 750,000 people (see below). Even 750,000 moves on a base of 28,814,000 moves is hardly a blip.

Rising immobility has profound consequences for individual, family, and community well-being, regional economic inequality, urban and regional planning, politics, local identity, and regional housing and labor markets. These issues would be better served if there were broader recognization that the US is an immobile – and not mobile – society. The current focus on a small uptick in moves does not serve this goal.


Notes

Why Americans are staying put, instead of moving to a new city or state

How the Pandemic Did, and Didn’t, Change Where Americans Move.

Declining American Mobility Relatively Unchanged By Pandemic.

Coronavirus Moving Study: People Left Big Cities, Temporary Moves Spiked In First 6 Months of COVID-19 Pandemic.