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COVID-19

The pandemic is affecting why and where we move

Amy Scott Oct 16, 2020
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"Fourteen percent of those that move with us are saying one of the primary reasons was due to COVID,” said Tricia Schuler, marketing director for United Van Lines' parent company UniGroup. Above, a moving crew loads a truck in Manhattan in March. Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images
COVID-19

The pandemic is affecting why and where we move

Amy Scott Oct 16, 2020
Heard on:
"Fourteen percent of those that move with us are saying one of the primary reasons was due to COVID,” said Tricia Schuler, marketing director for United Van Lines' parent company UniGroup. Above, a moving crew loads a truck in Manhattan in March. Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images
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Shemoore Preston lives in Queens, New York, which was really scary in the early months of the coronavirus pandemic when it was an epicenter of the virus — and is getting scary again as new cases rise. Preston, 24, just finished college and is looking for jobs someplace less crowded, maybe on the West Coast.

“I think if I move to another city, there will be more space,” he said. “I’ll have more ability to not be around people so much, compared to how New York City is, especially on the subway.”

According to the latest Marketplace-Edison Research Poll, 22% of Americans have moved or permanently relocated in the past six months, or are considering doing so in the next six months. Among that group, almost a third said one reason was to move away from an area impacted by COVID-19.

That squares with other recent research. One of the country’s largest moving companies, United Van Lines, has been asking its customers whether COVID-19 is a factor in their moves.

“What started as like a 5, 6, 7% back in March, April, is now up to 14%, so 14% of those that move with us are saying one of the primary reasons was due to COVID,” said Tricia Schuler, marketing director for parent company UniGroup.

Health isn’t the only concern, she said.

“I think it’s also … this newfound freedom for many people that now can work from anywhere,” Schuler said. “They’re picking up and moving wherever they want to, for the first time ever, where they’ve had this ability to do so.”

In the Marketplace-Edison Research Poll, nearly half of people who had moved or thought about moving said the ability to work from anywhere was a factor.

Not everyone has that flexibility though. More than a quarter of people surveyed said losing a job or income played a role in a move or potential move.

Overall, younger adults were the most likely to relocate, with 27% of 18- to 34-year-olds responding that they had recently moved or were considering moving. Back in June, Pew Research Center found that about 1 in 10 of adults under 30 had moved because of the coronavirus outbreak.

“That’s logical because, of course, they’re among the groups most affected both by job losses in the economy and also by the shutdown of college housing where many were told to leave their dormitories,” said D’Vera Cohn, a senior writer and editor with Pew.

Even moves that weren’t caused directly by the pandemic may be influenced by it. Fernando Villagran, 59, needed a larger space in Alexandria, Virginia, so that he could take care of his elderly mom while working from home.

“I lived in a two-bedroom condo, so bringing my mom in there with her cat and my dog … it wasn’t going to happen,” he said.

Now he has a home office, along with more outdoor space. And as a bonus, he said, he’s not so close to the neighbors.


Check out the full poll results here, and read more about our methodology below:

The Marketplace-Edison Research Poll is a national survey of Americans 18 and older. A total of 1,647 respondents were interviewed, with 725 interviews conducted by telephone and 922 interviews conducted online. The interviews were conducted from Sept. 25 through Oct. 8, 2020, in both English and Spanish. For purposes of analysis, respondents who identify as Black or Hispanic/Latino were oversampled and then weighted back to their proper proportion of all adults.  

The data was weighted to match the most recent United States population estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau for age, gender, race, income and region of the country.

Asian Americans are included and represented in the poll findings, but we did not oversample in a way that would allow us to analyze this group discretely. 

Editor’s note: While our poll asked respondents to identify themselves as Hispanic or Latino, we’ve changed the language here to Latinx to reflect Marketplace’s editorial guidelines. 

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

So what’s up with “Zoom fatigue”?

It’s a real thing. The science backs it up — there’s new research from Stanford University. So why is it that the technology can be so draining? Jeremy Bailenson with Stanford’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab puts it this way: “It’s like being in an elevator where everyone in the elevator stopped and looked right at us for the entire elevator ride at close-up.” Bailenson said turning off self-view and shrinking down the video window can make interactions feel more natural and less emotionally taxing.

How are Americans spending their money these days?

Economists are predicting that pent-up demand for certain goods and services is going to burst out all over as more people get vaccinated. A lot of people had to drastically change their spending in the pandemic because they lost jobs or had their hours cut. But at the same time, most consumers “are still feeling secure or optimistic about their finances,” according to Candace Corlett, president of WSL Strategic Retail, which regularly surveys shoppers. A lot of people enjoy browsing in stores, especially after months of forced online shopping. And another area expecting a post-pandemic boost: travel.

What happened to all of the hazard pay essential workers were getting at the beginning of the pandemic?

Almost a year ago, when the pandemic began, essential workers were hailed as heroes. Back then, many companies gave hazard pay, an extra $2 or so per hour, for coming in to work. That quietly went away for most of them last summer. Without federal action, it’s mostly been up to local governments to create programs and mandates. They’ve helped compensate front-line workers, but they haven’t been perfect. “The solutions are small. They’re piecemeal,” said Molly Kinder at the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program. “You’re seeing these innovative pop-ups because we have failed overall to do something systematically.”

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