MBA Chart of the Week: Adult Population Mobility 1996-2015

American adults have been moving less and less frequently over the past two decades.   

As of March 2015, just 11 percent of Americans over age 17 moved in the prior year, down from nearly 16 percent 20 years prior. Although recessionary periods (shaded in grey in the chart) have many impacts on household behavior, they cannot solely account for the slowdown in the rate at which adults change residence.    

The slowdown is puzzling in a number of dimensions and may have real economic consequences, in the following sense. If households are moving less, then they may not be finding the best job and housing opportunities. This is especially curious during the economic recovery over the past six years, since we would expect adults to move in search of new and better jobs after the dislocations of the economic crisis. Further, the composition of the population or its age does not explain the decline in mobility.  

Breaking this down into households who own and rent, we find that renter household mobility continues to fall (through March 2015) while homeowner mobility has stabilized and begun to increase a bit. Homeowner mobility has important implications for the “housing ladder,” through which young and first-time home buyers buy the homes of those who “move up” into better or different housing.   

To view the Chart of the Week, click  

(Lynn Fisher is vice president of research and economics with the Mortgage Bankers Association; she can be reached at Joel Kan associate vice president of economic forecasting with MBA; he can be reached at