Sunday, May 12, 2013

Why Don't Americans Move Any More?

Over the past 30 years, the percentage of Americans who move in any given year has fallen steeply, from about 13% to 8%; the percent who move to another state has fallen from 3% to less than 1%. Obviously the aging population accounts for some of this, but not nearly all of it. We are becoming a much less mobile society.

A new paper from the Federal Reserve shows that most of the decline comes from people not moving to take new jobs, and that is partly because we change jobs less. The table above shows that the percentage of employed people who take a new job in a given year has fallen from nearly 17% in 1978 to less than 12% today. Even more interesting to me is the percentage of people who change occupations, that is, get into a different line of work, which is down from over 9% to under 6%.

This speaks to me of an increasingly static world. People are increasingly likely to end up in the same economic bracket as their parents, in the state where they grew up. Employers expect experience in exactly the job they are hiring for, making it ever harder to change jobs or especially shift to a different occupation, so once you have a job or a career you are ever more likely to stick with it for your whole life.

We are becoming Europe.

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