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Fewer Americans moved in 2008

Tough home sales, job market lead to fewer moves

WASHINGTON – The number of Americans who moved declined sharply last year, reaching the lowest percentage in 60 years as people grappled with fewer jobs and tighter credit.

Roughly 11.9 percent of the nation’s population, or 35.2 million people, moved to a new home, down from 13.2 percent, or 38.7 million people, the previous year, according to census data released Wednesday. It was the sharpest percentage drop in U.S. mobility since the 2000 bursting of the tech bubble, which bankrupted many Internet startups and caused the dwindling of stock portfolios.

The levels of people moving have been declining for decades, more recently because of an aging boomer population that is less mobile, since hitting a peak of 21.2 percent in 1951. But the rate had generally leveled off at around 13 percent to 14 percent before last year’s drop.

Longer-distance moves between states have dropped 36 percent since 2005 to about 4.7 million, reflecting the housing downturn.

William Frey, a demographer at Brookings Institution, said declining U.S. migration to residential magnets in the suburbs and exurbs, and particularly in the Sunbelt, were driving the low moving rates overall.

“It’s a combination of the inability to buy or sell homes, locally, as well as a drying up of jobs particularly in hot housing markets,” he said. “The lure of the suburbs for immigrants, in particular, has been curtailed as homeownership there has proved to be elusive.”

The demographic numbers highlight the task ahead for the bureau, which is gearing up for next year’s decennial head count that will be used to apportion House seats.

The unemployed, minorities and poor were more likely to move, according to the data.

The census data was based on the Current Population Survey as of April 2008. The government first began tracking movers in 1948.


Other findings

• About 55 percent of immigrants moved directly from their own countries to the cities.

• The number of immigrants coming to the U.S. was the lowest in more than a decade.

• The most commonly cited reasons for moving were a desire to own a home or live in a better neighborhood, representing 40 percent of movers.

The Associated Press

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