Affordable Housing, Reports and Publications

Housing Top Reason Low Income People Move; Northeast Last


The Census Bureau announced last week that nearly a quarter (23.6%) of people with incomes below the poverty line moved in 2010. By comparison, 16.5% of people with incomes between 100% and 149% of the poverty line moved, and just 9.9% of people with incomes 150% or more of the poverty line moved. Recent literature has linked residential mobility and housing instability to worse health and school outcomes particularly for children, though moves can also lead to improved housing and opportunities.

Nearly 40 million people aged 1 year and older changed residences in the U.S. between 2009 and 2010. Among those who moved, four out of ten (16.4 million, or 43.7%) were in households that moved for housing-related reasons, such as a desire to live in a new or better home or a desire for cheaper housing. Renters comprised 71.3% of those who moved within the past year, a net share increase of 0.36% over last year and a 7.85% increase over the past five years.  People in poverty were 26.9% of those who moved in the past year, up 1.9% from last year and up 4.6% over the past five years. Fully 44.4% of people with incomes below the poverty line and 46.2% of people with incomes between 100 and 149% of the poverty line who had moved within the last year did so for housing-related reasons.

The housing reasons given in the survey were generally positive, perhaps because respondents are not asked specifically about evictions, foreclosures, or condemnations. The choices given respondents all start with reasons for "wanting" to move. Residents forced to move must choose "other housing reason" or a secondary reason for moving such as loss of job or family, which limits the usefulness of this survey and likely means involuntary moves or poor housing situations are undercounted as a reason for moving.

In general, higher mobility is associated with minority groups. The black alone population had the highest mover rate (16.7%), followed by Hispanics (15.6%), Asian alone (13.9%) and white alone not Hispanic (10.8%). By region, people in the South (13.6%) and the West (14.7%) were more likely to move than people in the Northeast (8.3%) or the Midwest (11.8%).


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