America is a highly mobile society. The American story is one of movement: Throughout its history the country has attracted migrants from all over the world, and for hundreds of years it has expanded westward. In the 19th century, this expansion wasn’t just seen as inevitable but as foreordained, as reflected in the phrase “manifest destiny.”
While westward expansion halted of necessity at the Pacific Ocean, every year tens of millions of Americans move for reasons more prosaic than manifest destiny. They main reasons they move are to be with family (or maybe to escape family), to find work, or in search of better or cheaper housing. (These are the major U.S. cities with the most affordable housing.)
To determine how many Americans have moved every year since 2000 and why they moved, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the U.S. Census Bureau’s CPS Historical Migration/Geographic Mobility Tables, and specifically the table headed “Reason for Move (Specific Categories): 1999-2021.”
In 1999-2000 a staggering 43 million Americans moved. More than 21 million did so for housing-related reasons, followed by family- and job-related reasons. These factors are often interrelated. America is a continent-sized country and some states may boom while others stagnate. Many people go where the jobs are, but finding affordable housing may be a challenge. (These are the top 25 cities where Americans are moving.)
In 2020-2021, in contrast, only 27 million people moved, mainly for housing-related reasons. The numbers may have been influenced by the COVID-19 pandemic, as many people wanted to leave densely populated cities such as New York for suburban or rural areas. At the same time, tens of millions of people were working from home, so moving for job-related reasons became less of an issue.
Note that the numbers given are rounded off to one decimal place, and that some people move for reasons other than family, work, or housing, so the numbers listed for those categories will not add up to the total number of people who moved.
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