Why Do We Move? Did the Reasons Change Over Time?

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Written by: David Ihrke

Between 2012 and 2013, 35.9 million people age 1 and over moved in the United States. Each person moved for a specific reason or set of reasons, whether it was to establish their own household, attend or leave college, or for a change of climate. If we compare back to 1999, we can see how the main reason for moving given has changed over time.

A new U.S. Census Bureau report — “Reason for Moving: 2012 to 2013,” based on data primarily from the 2013 Annual Social and Economic Supplement of the Current Population Survey — sheds light on the reasons why people moved during the previous year. Respondents have 19 possible choices, including the option to write in a response. A comparable version of this question has been asked on the survey since 1999.

It is interesting to note how estimates for these responses have changed since 1999. For example, “to establish own household” was selected less as a reason for moving in 1999 than in 2013 (7.7 percent compared with 10.5 percent). This indicates that establishing a household was either a more important or more common reason for moving in 2013 than it was in 1999.

Some reasons did not significantly change during this period, such as moving because of a “new job or job transfer.” In 1999, it accounted for 9.5 percent of the reasons for moving. In 2013, it was 9.0 percent.

Another way to review results from the reason for move data is to collapse the 19 individual reasons into four categories: family-related, job-related, housing-related and other. This allows you to follow fluctuations over time more efigure1_rbasily.

Figure 1 contains the four collapsed categories from 1999 through 2013. As you can see, there is some variation within the categories by year but none of them intersect. This means that the order of the collapsed reason for move categories has not changed over time. One other important aspect of this figure is the recent and sudden decrease in the collapsed “other” category. While the exact reason for this decline is unknown, it is apparent that it was not simply a shift from one collapsed category to another. On the contrary, the family-related and housing-related categories have increased from this shift. The apparent change in the job-related category was not statistically significant.

 

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