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Peter R. Orszag

Covid Won’t Bring Back the Mobile American

A growing aversion to relocating will continue after the pandemic.

Americans used to do more of this.

Americans used to do more of this.

Photographer: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Americans, once known for their propensity to move from state to state, have largely grown averse to such change. It may be true that the pandemic has brought a temporary reversal. When new official statistics are released in November, they may show a significant uptick in the share of people who moved in 2020. But any such increase will probably turn out to be an anomaly. After Covid-19, ongoing declines in geographic mobility will return.

In the 1950s and ’60s, about 20% of Americans moved each year. Over the past couple decades, however, that share has fallen steadily. In 2018-19, it dropped below 10% for the first time since 1947, when the data begin. The reasons for this, explored in an article by my colleague Richard Florida and also an earlier one by me, have to do with an aging population, people’s growing emotional attachment to their homes, and a decline in the number of people changing jobs.