Residential mobility has been a defining feature of the American Dream but long-distance moves are at a historical low. While overall mobility remains low


Economic opportunities vary with geography. Thus, residential mobility that allows workers to move to areas with better job opportunities can promote economic mobility. Residential mobility has been a defining feature of the American Dream, from westward expansion to the Great Migration, but long-distance moves are at a historical low. While overall mobility remains low, renters are significantly more mobile than homeowners, and new data show a recent uptick in inter-state moves for millennials to pre-Recession levels.


Previous Apartment List research has shown that job opportunities are the most common reason renters relocate, a trend that supports the relationship between residential and economic mobility. In order to better understand the motivation behind long-distance moves, we surveyed over 20,000 Apartment List users about their decision-making process on selecting where they live.


Job-first movers refer to renters who applied for jobs in multiple cities, then picked a city based on job offers.

Location-first movers refer to renters who chose a city to live in before applying for jobs in that city.


Nationwide, 46.5 percent of new-metro movers were job-first movers, but this share varies significantly by education level and location.


Of renters who move away from their hometowns, those with a college degree are more likely to search for jobs in multiple cities. An estimated 57.2 percent of renters with a bachelor’s degree were job-first movers, compared to 35.5 percent of those without a bachelor’s degree. Renters with STEM degrees, often working in the technology sector, are even more likely to have relocated for a job.




Job-First Movers are Less Likely to Settle Down in their Current Metro

Renters who deliberately select a city to move to are more likely to plan on settling down in that city longer term. Of these location-first movers, 42.8 percent plan to stay in their current metro, compared to just 27.3 percent of job-first movers. This trend holds true within each of the metros studied. For example, in the Atlanta metro, 51.1 percent of location-first movers plan on staying in the Atlanta area, compared to 27 percent of job-first movers.

While job opportunities attract workers to new metros, cost-of-living is a major factor for renters determining where to settle down. Renters in more affordable metros were more likely to report plans to settle down in their current metros. Of renters surveyed living in lower rent metros, 42.4 percent plan on settling down in their current metro, compared to 34.3 percent of renters in more expensive metros.


Many of the cities with the largest share of renters planning to settle down are the same Sunbelt metros that appeal to location-first movers. These Sunbelt metros, including San Antonio, Las Vegas and Charlotte, offer both job opportunities and relatively affordable housing options.


Cities, such as New York and San Francisco, have long been destinations for young workers launching their careers, but the high home prices make it difficult for many workers to settle in these cities long-term. It’s interesting to note that despite rapidly increasing housing costs, newer tech hubs, such as Austin and Denver, have a higher share of renters planning to settle down, compared to established tech centers, perhaps indicating that these are long-term destinations for tech workers leaving places, such as the San Francisco Bay Area.


For the full story and more stats on who's moving where, visit Apartment List


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