Here’s an odd economic mystery. Americans are moving around the country a lot less frequently than they used to. For example: In the early 1990s, 3 percent of Americans moved across state lines each year. Today, the rate is half that.
Economists have offered all sorts of theories for the drop in mobility. Perhaps it’s because America’s aging, and the elderly don’t move as much. Or maybe it’s because there are more two-earner households around — it’s harder to swap cities when both adults need to sort out their job situations. Maybe it’s the recession and the rise in underwater mortgages. Or perhaps high moving costs are to blame.
But none of these theories appears to fit the data. That’s the argument of an intriguing new paper (pdf) from Raven Molloy, Christopher L. Smith and Abigail Wozniak of the Federal Reserve Board. The authors find, for instance, that demographics can’t explain the drop, since Americans of all ages and groups are moving less.
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