Choosing where to live is an incredibly personal decision. But why do people move? What is the most likely reason for a person to uproot their life and relocate? Here’s what our survey results found.
Making Moves Across the United States
Out of the hundreds we surveyed across the United States, we found that over 50% of people have lived in their current location for over 10 years.
The next most common timeframe was 3-5 years, with only 17% of respondents selecting that option. The most common reason people chose to live in their current city was family or the fact that they had grown up there. Only 14% of people say they moved to where they lived for a job.
Major Moving Motivations
However, despite personal connections linking people to their homes so often, the most common reasons people say they would move would be either for a new job or the opportunity to move to their dream location.
While people tend to stay in their comfort zones, they will relocate if a better option arises.
Making Moves to Settle Down: At What Age Do People Settle?
Many people have a vision that, at some age, they will settle in a single location and put down roots. Most people believe this will happen between the ages of 24-26, and the next largest group of people (17%) don’t think they will settle down until they are over 36.
How attached are people to their current city?
43% of people say that they are only somewhat attached to their current city, but the next largest group of respondents say that they are very attached to where they live. This seems to directly correlate with the idea of deciding whether or not to settle down—some love where they are now, while others want to wait before putting down roots.
Hometown Love: Why Do People Move Back Home?
As kids, most people want to live anywhere but their hometown, but it seems like this attitude changes as life goes on. 40% of people say they are open to the idea of living in their hometown, and 28% say that they live there now. Only 26% of people overall are entirely opposed to the idea of moving back to their hometown.
Who is most likely to move home?
Men and women had very similar opinions about moving back to their hometowns. The generations, however, were split very decisively in comparison. Baby Boomers were by far the most likely to say they would never return to their hometown. Gen X was by far the least likely to currently live in their hometown, but most likely of the generations to say they might move to their hometown at some point. Millennials were the most likely to currently live in their hometown and the least likely to say that they would never move back to their hometown.
There were quite a few differences between regional preferences. The Northeast and the West were very likely to say that they might move back to their hometown at some point. Meanwhile, people in the South were most likely to currently live in their hometown. People in the Midwest were most likely to say they would never return to their hometown.
Making Moves to Make More Money
For the vast majority of people, moving to a city without a job is a major dealbreaker. Men and women agree on this front, as do Baby Boomers, Gen X, Millennials, and regions across the U.S.
Relocating Without a Raise
On the other hand, many people are willing to move for a job that doesn’t give a raise or promotion. In fact, out of every demographic we surveyed (Gender, Region, and Generation), Baby Boomers were the only people more likely to say they would not consider relocating for a job without a promotion or raise.
Over a third of people (36%) would move for less than a 20% raise. One in four people say they would move for a 20% raise, and 18% of people say they would need at least a 50% raise to move from their current location.
Moving For a Job, by Generation
Overall, Baby Boomers were the least likely to relocate for a job, most likely because they are approaching or currently at retirement age. Gen X is the most demanding overall. Most respondents in that generation say they would require a 20% to 50% raise to move. Millennials were the least demanding, as the most likely generation to say that they would move for a 5% to 15% raise.
Making Moves for a Significant Other
Overall, people take a fairly practical stance on relocating for love. In every demographic breakdown, the most common timeframe they want to date for first is 1-2 years. Over 30% of people in every category chose that as the milestone they would need to hit before considering moving to the same city as someone they are dating.
According to our results, the cost of living plays a significant role in the decision to move in with a significant other. In fact, 3 out of 4 people say they are more likely to move in with a significant other sooner if they could split a high cost of living.
Romantic Relocation Decisions
When deciding who should move closer, the most significant factor tends to be which city both parties like best. Coming in just behind were both employment-based factors: highest salary or most opportunity for growth.
Almost 60% of people find a long-distance relationship more stressful than relocating to live with their partner.
Reasons for Moving FAQs
Why do Americans move so much?
Based on 2007 data from the American Community Survey, the average American can expect to move 11.7 times during their lifetime. The number of Americans who moved in 2022 went up by 4% compared to 2021, according to the HireAHelper U.S. Migration Report. As we saw from our survey, the reasons for moving include family, a significant other, or a new job. But why do Americans, in particular, seem to move so much compared to other nationalities?
Well, one reason could be that the U.S. is a relatively large country with many different states, meaning Americans can get a wide variety of cultures and sceneries while still being able to speak the language, use the same currency, and have a general expectation of the same customs no matter which American state they move to.
Another could be that Americans live in an individualistic society. That means that they place personal gain and happiness over the collective one. So, where in collectivistic countries like Japan and the Philippines, it’s common for multiple generations to live under one roof, in the U.S., a typical expectation is that adult children move out and relocate to a city with plenty of career opportunities.
What age group moves the most?
Twenty-somethings are a mobile age group. The people we surveyed think they are the most likely to move to where they intend to settle down between the ages of 24-26. And according to the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies, at least as of 2016, the age group that moved the most was 25-29.
How far does the average American move?
Based on data from more than 100,000 moves booked on HireAHelper.com, in 2022, the average American moved about 73 miles.
What country are most Americans moving to?
According to a study by HireAHelper.com, Mexico is the country most Americans move to, followed by the U.K., Canada, and Australia.
What is a good reason to move?
There’s no right or wrong answer here! Again, one person’s reasons for moving may not make sense to another person because it’s a highly personal decision. But based on our survey, the top reasons for moving are:
- To be closer to loved ones
- To pursue a job opportunity
- To live in a dream city
So, Why Do People Move?
Overall, people seem to approach the decision to relocate with their heads rather than their hearts. They see moving as a big commitment. After all, it means changing their routine, finding a new home, storing their belongings, and making new friends. But overall, people are willing to make the change if the payoff is worth it. In many cases, all it takes is a chance at a job or a person to spend their lives with.
Update: This post was originally published on January 16, 2019. It was revised on July 17th, 2023 with more information.