Great Recession Kept Us Local

Though it has been one of the most rapid displacements in recent history, the Great Recession did not cause most Americans to move very far from home.

At the height of the recession, only about 10.5 million people moved outside their counties, according to the Census Bureau. That’s the lowest proportion since the bureau started tracking the number in 1947. Those displaced by foreclosures tended to move within home towns and cities. In 2010, the number of local moves increased to the highest level in a decade—24.2 million, according to a study by Michael Stoll, professor of public policy at UCLA.

Part of the reason this shift affected the population differently is because the economic downturn was so widespread. While the mass migrations caused by the Dustbowl of the 1930s offered migrants respite from their economic woes in the form of better environmental conditions, the recession followed people wherever they went.

“Paying the costs to move [across regions] without a guarantee of employment just doesn’t make sense,” says Stoll. “There was no good place to move to, and some reason to stay.” Stoll’s study also found that nearly a quarter of those who moved locally did so in order to find cheaper housing.

Source: Lose it and move it: Displaced Americans move locally, Nov. 12, 2013,

U.S. Household Wealth “Regains Peak”

Federal Reserve research shows that surging stock prices and steady home appreciation have finally allowed Americans to recover the $16 trillion in wealth they lost during the Great Recession. The gains are helping to bolster the U.S. economy and could lead to additional spending and growth.

Most of the recovered wealth has come from higher stock prices that have been flowing mainly to wealthier Americans. By comparison, the middle class derives the bulk of its wealth in the form of home equity, which has risen much less.

According to the Fed, household wealth totaled $66.1 trillion as of Dec. 31 — 98 percent of the pre-recession peak. Further increases in stock and home prices this year mean that Americans’ net worth has since topped the pre-recession peak of $67.4 trillion, private economists report.

Source: “US Household Wealth Regains Pre-Recession Peak,” Associated Press (March 8, 2013)

The Recession Changes Americans’ Moving Patterns

Moves across county and state lines are falling, with the 2007-2009 recession blamed for changing Americans’ moving patterns, according to an analysis of census data through 2010. The Great Recession caused more Americans to move because they could no longer afford to remain where they were. That’s a big change in what traditionally motivates Americans to move — a bigger home or higher paying job, USA Today reports about the analysis.

Nine percent of Americans stayed local with their moves during 2007-2009 period — the highest in a decade. 

“Typically, over the last couple of decades, when Americans moved, they moved to improve their lives,” says Michael Stoll, author of the research and chairman of UCLA’s public policy department. “This is the shock: For the first time, Americans are moving for downward economic mobility. Either they lost their house or can’t afford where they’re renting currently or needed to save money.”

More than 23 percent moved for more affordable housing during the recession. Prior to the recession, that percentage stood at 20.8 percent. 

Also, prior to the recession, 41.3 percent of Americans moved in order to own a home or settle into a better neighborhood. However, during the recession, that percentage dropped to 30.4 percent. 

Source: “Americans on the Move Start Moving Down, Not Up; Setback in Upward Mobility Hits Blacks, Sun Belt Spots Hardest,” USA Today (Feb. 20, 2013)