MBA Chart of the Week: Mobility Rates and Reasons for Moving

Source: U.S. Census Bureau.

This week’s MBA Chart of the Week examines the reasons why fewer Americans are moving.

The U.S. mobility rate, defined as the number of movers as a percentage of the population, has steadily declined since the mid-1980s, and the most recent U.S. Census Bureau data show that less than 10 percent of the population moved residence in 2018-19. This is less than half the mobility rate (of 20 percent) in 1984-85.

Since 1999, Census has published the reasons for moving, with a focus on family-related, employment-related and housing-related reasons.

Moves for employment-related reasons have fluctuated over the past 20 years, but they have remained around seven million per annum. Moves for family-related reasons have fallen in the past five years from more than 11 million in 2014 to fewer than nine million. However, the biggest declines are evident for housing-related reasons. These have fallen by nearly nine million from the start of the millennium to 12.6 million today.

From 1998-2004, more than 7.8 million movers (per year) said the reason they moved was because they “wanted a new or better home/apartment,” whereas 5.3 million movers gave this reason in the past two years (on average).  Similarly, “wanting to own a home and not rent” accounted for four million moves (on average) from 1998-2004 versus fewer than two million in 2018-19.

(Edward Seiler is Associate Vice President of Housing Economics with the Mortgage Bankers Association and Executive Director of Research Institute for Housing America. He can be reached at