In the years just before and during the Great Recession, long-range moves declined but there was a jump in moving locally, according to a research brief by Michael A. Stoll, chair of the Department of Public Policy.
Stoll’s report found that people moved the most in metropolitan areas with the highest unemployment and the highest foreclosures – particularly the West and South, areas hard hit by the Great Recession. Unlike the past decades, when local movers were moving up economically – from an apartment to a house, or from one house to a better one – these movers were moving down economically, seeking a cheaper home.
In 2010, nine percent of Americans moved locally – the highest level in a decade. Meanwhile, less than two percent of Americans moved farther afield – the lowest level in this same period.
“Most distressing is the evidence that Black residents have been particularly affected by this trend – more likely to be pushed into a short-distance moves by these economic conditions,” Stoll said.
The study drew partly on reports on motivations for moving from the Current Population Survey, a joint project of the Census Bureau and Bureau of Labor Statistics. Before the Great Recession, 41% of local movers said they wanted to buy a home or live in a better neighborhood; the move signaled their improved economic status. During the recession, only 30% moved for that reason. Instead, a growing share moved for cheaper housing or to “look for work.”
The research was conducted as part of Brown University’s US 2010 project, which tracks changes in American society in the recent past. Stoll's study was covered in The Wall Street Journal  and USA TODAY .