🖤 Donations of all sizes power our public service journalism Give Now
Marketplace Scratch Pad

We’re not going anywhere

Scott Jagow Jun 24, 2009

Americans are like birds who’ve decided not to fly south for the winter. After decades of migrating hither and yon, the economy has frozen us in place. And that’s dropping a big piano on the moving industry.

From the San Francisco Chronicle:

“Property values have dropped so much, people can’t pick up and move the way they used to,” said Michael Hicks, a demographer at Ball State University in Indiana who has tracked the nationwide slowdown using data from several sources, including moving companies.

That industry data mirrors a Census Bureau report that looked at moves in 2008, said William Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C.

“The annual migration rate has gone way down to historic low levels,” Frey said. “This includes long-distance moves and moving across town.”

During the 1950s and 1960s, Frey said, as many as 20 percent of Americans moved in any given year. Mobility rates slowed to 15 percent to 16 percent during the 1990s. But in 2008, only 11.9 percent of Americans moved, he said.

Traditional moving companies are getting hit pretty hard. Americans who are moving are doing more of the work themselves or using online alternatives like uship.com. And based on some of the stories I’ve heard over the years, I’m guessing there isn’t a whole lot of sympathy for the traditional moving companies.

I just moved across town recently and did almost all of it myself — rented a van for a few hours basically. My fiance hired movers for her stuff but kept their role to a minimum. They did a good job, and it was an easy, inexpensive move.

The lesson I’ve learned through moving many times is… move with the minimum. Get rid of as much stuff as possible!

Got any moving/not-moving stories?

There’s a lot happening in the world.  Through it all, Marketplace is here for you. 

You rely on Marketplace to break down the world’s events and tell you how it affects you in a fact-based, approachable way. We rely on your financial support to keep making that possible. 

Your donation today powers the independent journalism that you rely on. For just $5/month, you can help sustain Marketplace so we can keep reporting on the things that matter to you.