Americans Moving Less Often, Changing Jobs Less Frequently - Divorce May Be Among Reasons Why, UConn Researcher Says

Surprisingly, Americans are moving far less than they used to, only about half as much as they moved 50 years ago.  And Americans aren’t moving or changing jobs with the frequency of decades past.  Counter-intuitive, but true, according to the mounting data. In the early 1980s, about 17 percent of Americans changed their address each year. Now it’s less than 12 percent. Bigger moves, between different states, have dropped even faster, the Boston Globe reported this month.

“When Ronald Reagan took office in 1981, about one in 10 Americans changed occupations in a given year. As of 2012, it’s more like one in 24,” the Globe reported, citing data from a team of researchers at the Federal Reserve and the University of Notre Dame.cook-inter-state-migration

A researcher at the University of Connecticut has developed a theory regarding a key contributing factor to the diminishing moves and job changes.

“I’ve been banging my head against a wall for almost a decade, trying to figure out why migration rates are declining like this,” says Thomas Cooke, professor of geography in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Cooke spent the spring of 2015 in the Department of Demography at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands on a Fulbright fellowship, where he worked on just this problem, UConn Today reported. His research findings give the first direct evidence for one major factor contributing to this trend: divorce and child custody.

“Changes in family complexity, like divorce and child custody, make a big difference for migration,” he told UConn Today.  Cooke’s current work stemmed from the idea that in the 21st century, families are becoming increasingly complex. More women are working, people often live with elderly parents or grandparents, and step-children and cousins often live under the same roof.

Less moving is not good news for the economy, published reports have indicated.

Economists worry that the lower turnover is an indication of stagnation, not stability, the Los Angeles Times reported earlier this year. “Workers are staying put because there are fewer better jobs to move to, or they face other barriers that are keeping them locked in their current positions. And with declining job movement may come slower gains in overall employment, wages, productivity and, ultimately, economic growth,” the LA Times reported.moving

The Globe report suggests that “one big reason people jump between states and careers is because they’re lured away by the promise of higher pay and grander opportunities. The fact that fewer people are moving suggests fewer are getting those life-altering chances.”

The Times reports that experts also blame government policies for suppressing job creation and labor market mobility, whether through taxes or burdensome regulations.  Government restrictions on who can work in which jobs have expanded greatly over time, academic economists Steven Davis and John Haltiwanger, who have written extensively on labor market flows, told the Times. Citing other research, they note that the share of workers required to have a government-issued license to do their jobs rose from less than 5 percent in the 1950s to 29 percent in 2008.

A New York Times report in May, citing data highlighted by the Brookings Institution, indicated that “Fluidity rates varied widely throughout the country, but the Brookings paper found that they declined in every state. Most of the largest drops occurred in the West: Oregon, Wyoming, Washington, Oregon, South Dakota, Montana, Idaho and Alaska were all in the bottom 10.

States with the most activity included North Carolina, South Carolina, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey and Illinois – but even these were not as fluid as they used to be, the paper reported.sign

There are broad adverse economic consequences to the lack of mobility, the Globe reports.  “A recent study authored by two Harvard professors found that poor states are barely gaining any ground. Between 1880 and 1980, income differences among the states tended to shrink about 2 percent a year. This catch-up growth was only half as fast from 1990 and 2010. And if you focus on the few years just before the recession that began in 2008, there was virtually no convergence at all.  Should this trend continue, the gap between rich and poor America may become a permanent feature of economic life,” the newspaper reported.

Cooke focused on child custody following divorce. His analysis confirmed that divorced people with children were even less likely to move than those without children. The findings support the idea that people’s lives are still linked, even if they divorce, Cooke explained.  At the University of Connecticut Cooke has directed both the Urban Studies program and the Center for Population Research. His research focuses on the family dimension of internal migration, and the shifting concentration of poverty. In 2013 he earned the Research Excellence Award from the Population Specialty Group of the Association of American Geographers.

Cooke noted that the findings are the first direct evidence of divorce and child custody affecting migration in the U.S. Unlike the ’60s and ’70s, when state divorce proceedings usually awarded custody of children to the mother, joint custody is the norm today, he pointed out.

Combined with other factors affecting migration, such as the ease of telecommuting and the use of technology to communicate with loved ones far away, these divorce factors could spell a new era of rootedness, Cooke predicted.

Manufacturing Businesses, Not Only GE, Being Courted to Move As Fewer Praise CT's Quality of Life

Connecticut’s state government has been working diligently to boost manufacturing and manufacturers in the state, but the latest statewide survey suggests there remain significant obstacles on the road to realizing the goal of growing and sustaining a vibrant manufacturing sector. Among manufacturers, 94 percent handle their production in Connecticut, according to the just-released 2015 Survey of Connecticut Businesses by the Connecticut Business and Industry Association and BlumShapiro. While the survey analysis describes that number as encouraging, it also notes that 28% have production facilities in other parts of the U.S., and 24% in other countries—“which means they may be more likely to consider expanding or shifting more of their production elsewhere.”cover

The report indicates that the “factors that drive site location include access to key inputs; proximity to suppliers and customers; access to skilled labor; cost of labor; occupancy costs; affordable energy; and where companies are in their life cycle (e.g., mature companies are often likely to disperse geographically to reduce costs).

Although the courting by Governors from across the nation of General Electric’s corporate management has garnered much media and political attention, it is certainly not the only company that is the subject of someone else’s attention.  The CBIA-BlumShapiro report said that one in three businesses surveyed have been approached about moving or expanding their operations to another state.

Of those, the analysis continued, “nearly one in four are planning on moving to that state, 29 percent are considering shifting significant production to another state within five years, and 31 percent are weighing expansion in another state within five years.aother state

Although the report shows that 63 percent of businesses surveyed showed a profit this past year—the best this survey has seen since 2006 - the report indicated that “a primary area of concern” is the expansion of businesses over the next five years, and whether that expansion will take place in Connecticut or elsewhere.

quoteWhether perception drives reality or reality is drives perception, the opinions stated by business surveyed are less than encouraging, according to the report.  Primary reasons cited for moving or expanding outside Connecticut are the state’s high costs (including taxes) and its “anti-competitive business environment,” reflecting an oft-stated CBIA viewpoint.  More than three-quarters say Connecticut’s business climate is subpar compared with other states in the Northeast, and the nation.

The report also noted the significant number of state companies that depend on other Connecticut businesses.  “The vast majority of companies surveyed (70 percent) are somewhat or highly dependent on larger Connecticut companies or businesses,” the analysis highlighted, “which raises concerns when tax hikes threaten to push large companies out of state.”

CBIA’s surveys consistently find that personal reasons also factor significantly in location decisions.  “Many business leaders point to Connecticut’s quality of life and the desire to work close to where they live as the main reason for locating and/or staying in-state. However, we are slipping here,” the report said.dependant

In a survey of Hartford-New Haven-Springfield businesses conducted earlier this year, quality of life—traditionally the number-one benefit to operating a business in this region— surprisingly emerged as less of a competitive advantage today.  In fact, there has been a steady decline in the percentage of company leaders citing quality of life as the greatest benefit of operating a business here: 47 percent in 2009, 43 percent in 2011, 40 percent in 2013, and just over a third (35 percent) in 2015.


Moving Vans Heading Outbound, Beyond Connecticut’s Borders

If it’s tough to tell sometimes if you’re coming or going, there is at least one well-known company that keeps close tabs on movement.  United Van Lines, long in the business of moving people from point A to point B, issues an annual “migration study” that tracks where people are moving to, and moving from. In 2012, more folks were going than coming to Connecticut, by a ratio of 56 percent to 44 percent, putting the state squarely among the top 10 outward bound leaders.  The pattern was similar throughout the Northeast.  New Jersey (62 percent) displaced the outbound leader from last year, Illinois (60 percent) reclaiming the top spot for high-outbound migration that it held in 2010.  In addition to New Jersey, New York (58 percent), Maine (56 percent) and Connecticut (56 percent) are also included.

Michigan (58 percent) and Wisconsin (55 percent) along with Illinois represented the Great Lakes region. Michigan fell to the No. 6 from the No. 4 spot it held in 2011. Previously, it had claimed the top outbound spot every year from 2006-2009.  Kentucky (55 percent) joined West Virginia (58 percent) as the only Southern states to appear on the high outbound list. New Mexico (58 percent) was the only Western state to appear on the list. The top 10 outbound states for 2012 were:

  1. New Jersey Migration Map
  2. Illinois
  3. West Virginia
  4. New York
  5. New Mexico
  6. Michigan
  7. Connecticut
  8. Maine
  9. Wisconsin
  10. Kentucky

That’s one list that states would prefer not to be included on.  United has tracked migration patterns  annually on a state-by-state basis since 1977. For 2012, the study is based on all household moves handled by United within the 48 contiguous states and Washington, D.C.  United classifies states as "high inbound" if 55 percent or more of the moves are going into a state and "high outbound" if 55 percent or more moves were coming out of a state or "balanced" if the difference of inbound and outbound is negligible.   The top-five inbound states of 2012 were 1) District of Columbia, 2) Oregon, 3) Nevada, 4) North Carolina and 5) South Carolina.

The Western United States is also represented on the high-inbound list with Oregon (61 percent) and Nevada (58 percent) both making the list. Oregon is number two for inbound migration for the third year in a row. Nevada returned to the high inbound traffic for the second consecutive year. The Carolinas each made the top five with North Carolina at 56 percent and South Carolina at 55 percent inbound moves.

Several states gained approximately the same number of residents as those that left. Those states include New Hampshire from the New England region, and the states of Louisiana, Iowa, Indiana, North Dakota, and Maryland.  This is the fifth consecutive year the District of Columbia (64 percent) was the top moving destination in the United States.  That trend may continue in 2013, what with members of Congress and the Cabinet coming and going.