When Paterfamilias and I were young and starting our life together, we picked up stakes and left New York City for Washington, D.C. Almost all of our friends have similar stories to tell. One left Nebraska and lived in Alabama before making a home in the east. Another hightailed it from New Jersey to Seattle, got married and moved east with a spouse who took a job here.
That was then. Evidently, it's not happening now. According to Pew research, Americans overall are moving about the country at the lowest rate on record and a primary reason is Millennials: They are staying put at a significantly higher rate than earlier generations of young adults. In 2016, only 20 percent of Millennials who were 25- to 35-year-olds reported having lived at a different address one year earlier; in the mid-1960s that percent was 30.
Pew researchers find this counter-mobility trend counter-intuitive since the three usual impediments to moving about the country are missing from the Millennial repertoire:
--Having a spouse. Marriage is a drag on mobility since a move generally means two people have to line up new employment. According to Census data, in 2016, only 42 percent of Millennial 25- to 35-year-olds were married and living with their spouse; in 1963 it was 82 percent.
--Owning a home. It is usually less disruptive and less costly to move from a rental apartment than it is to sell a house, so one would expect renters to be more mobile than homeowners. In 2016, only 37 percent of Millennials in the 25- to 35-year-old age span lived in owner-occupied housing (not owned by their parents). In 1981, 56 percent of early Baby Boomer 25- to 35-year-olds lived in such housing.
--Being parents. They don't have kids yet. It's much more difficult to pick up stakes when children are part of the household. In 2016, a majority (56 percent) of Millennial 25- to 35-year-olds didn't have a child of their own living with them. Fewer than half of Gen Xers and Boomers were childless at a similar stage of life.
So, if Millennials are less tied down by spouses, houses and kids, why are they staying closer to home than we did? The recession's job market and student debt may have something to do with it. But I'll let Pew spell it out:
Labor market opportunities may be a factor. Millennials were hit hard by the Great Recession in terms of job-holding and wages. For many young adults who moved in the past year, job opportunities were a prime motivation for moving, and the modest jobs recovery may not be providing the impetus Millennials need.
When they do move, Millennials’ motivations for moving are significantly different from those of earlier generations of young movers. One incentive for moving is to buy a home, but Census Bureau migration data suggest Millennial movers are doing so at significantly lower rates than earlier generations. In 2016, homeownership among younger households was at its lowest level in at least 40 years. On the one hand, the different family demographics of Millennials – such as not having children – may undercut their desire to own a home. But financial considerations may play a role as well. Compared with Gen X young adults around 2000, lending standards are much tighter, making it more difficult for Millennial 25- to 35-year-olds to get a mortgage. Related to this, student debt may be deterring young adults from home ownership.
If you want to visualize the mobility stats, here are the Pew charts plus a link to the Pew report.