Fewer Americans are moving than at any point in the past six decades (since the Census Bureau started tracking mobility). Fewer than 12 percent (11.9 percent) of Americans moved in 2008 compared to more than 20 percent in 1984-85. This is the result of the economic crisis and the housing slump which has essentially locked Americans in place. Brookings Institution demographer William Frey told the The New York Times:
“It represents a perfect storm halting migration at all levels, since it involves deterrents in local housing-related moves and longer distance employment-related moves. … [T]he U.S. population, often thought of as the most mobile in the developed world, seems to have been stopped dead in its tracks due to a confluence of constraints posed by a tough economic spell.”
The Economist makes much the same point arguing that housing has turned from “shelter” to “burden” – noting that “the social benefits of home ownership look more modest than they did and the economic costs much higher.”
The Census Bureau also reports that foreign immigration to America is down to its lowest point in more than a decade. Quite a devastating double whammy for the U.S. economy which draws considerable strength from labor mobility and inflows of foreign talent.
Economic recovery will turn on restoring both.