CLOSER LOOK: Americans On The Move - The Great Reshuffling?

Posted on Thursday, October 21, 2021 by Bob Dittman, Marya Morgan

(K-LOVE Closer Look) – The COVID-19 pandemic pressed the accelerator on a pre-existing trend in the United States. Americans are on the move. Not all of us and not from everywhere, but “we’re seeing the very early stages of a sort of ‘reshuffling’ in the country,” says Evan Hock, co-founder of Make My Move.  

Facing realities, sometimes economic, sometimes health-related, people nationwide are reassessing personal priorities. D'Vera Cohn of Pew Research Center confirms “about 1 in 20 adults told us they had moved permanently or temporarily due to the coronavirus outbreak,” a marked uptick from years past. The shift was especially noticeable among young adults aged 18-29. “We found about 11% moved due to the COVID pandemic,” she says, which contrasts with just 5% of older adults. The pandemic also intensified the drift towards 20-somethings residing with their parents long-term. 

The fear of contracting the virus sparked a lot of initial decisions to relocate, says Jeff Ostrowski of Bank Rate, but in the months since the pandemic began the overall thinking has changed. He says people have clearly begun “re-evaluating where they live: looking at housing costs, they’re looking at tax structure -- they’re looking at lifestyle.” 

While the historic 1930’s migration from the U.S. Midwest to California known as the Dust Bowl was driven by drought and economic desperation, Hock says the COVID-19 pandemic made this current migration all about choice. Newly remote workers “are moving en masse” and are “often choosing the communities offering the incentives to do so.” Incentives like cash payouts of $10K or $15K paid by small towns eager to attract new residents. States such as West Virginia, Arkansas, Indiana and Maine have instituted successful “bounties,” as they are sometimes called, each with specific application requirements. Relocated residents may need to buy a house in their new town, or commit to staying at least one-year or perhaps provide proof of yearly minimum income via remote work to qualify for the 'move-here' bonus.

While some people are indeed moving to the more sparsely populated South or Midwest, the biggest shifts in residency are from American urban centers like New York and Los Angeles to surrounding towns, as ‘hybrid’ or remote workers trade outdated commutes for quiet suburban streets. Some movers do entirely abandon their state in search of more affordable housing or lower taxes, but whether they leave the city for the country or re-establish in completely different region, Hock says the COVID-19 pandemic sparked a fresh 21st century “migration towards lifestyle.”

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