Many aspects of American life have been greatly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting rearranging of society that has come to define 2020.
A survey conducted by the Pew Research Center while the pandemic was in full swing in June 2020 found that approximately a fifth of Americans moved or know someone who moved as a result of COVID-19. The reasons they gave for people moving were extremely varied — ranging from being called into active military duty to college housing being closed down to, of course, sudden financial constraints.
But what Pew didn’t uncover was that 2021 is actually going to be an even bigger year for relocating in the U.S.
The Neighbor 2020 – 2021 American Migration Report surveyed over 1,000 U.S.-based respondents to find out just how many Americans were planning to move in 2021 as well as their key motivations for doing so. Here’s a quick summary of what we learned:
- Over 20% more people are planning to move in 2021 than moved in 2020.
- The majority of these movers aren’t relocating due to safety concerns related to COVID-19 like we would have expected.
- While 18% of respondents who plan to move in 2021 are able to do so as a result of job flexibility brought on by the 2019 coronavirus, most are ultimately doing so to lower their cost of living.
- With more living space being a key deciding factor in where people plan to move and about 40% of movers relocating from larger cities to smaller communities, our finding that homeownership is on the rise makes sense.
- On an uplifting note, once it’s considered safe to do so, over 70% of respondents say they’re excited to meet or get to know their new neighbors Many also report interest in getting more involved in local events and volunteer opportunities in their new neighborhoods.
Keep reading for a deep dive into the number of Americans that are moving in 2021, their main motivations for doing so, where they’re going, and more.
Table of Contents:
Moving Is Up Dramatically and Even More Americans Will Move in 2021 Than 2020
Our key finding from The Neighbor 2020 – 2021 American Migration Report is that 21% more people plan to move in 2021 than moved in 2020 (56% as compared to 35%).
In addition, the number of people who moved in 2020 who plan to move yet again in 2021 is higher than we would have expected at about 9% of respondents.
In a year like 2020 that has been punctuated with exceptional events including the outbreak of COVID-19 and a record-breaking presidential election, we can’t say we’re shocked to see that people are more inclined to disrupt the status quo than usual. However, it’s interesting to see the jump from the 14% of Americans who move in a typical year.
So let’s explore exactly why people are moving, which you may be surprised to learn is not because of but partially enabled by the COVID-19 outbreak.
Why Are So Many People Planning to Move in 2021?
Interestingly, primarily pandemic-driven relocations are higher now in 2020 than they will be in 2021. Over 17% of respondents said they moved during 2020 to improve their safety related to COVID-19. For those moving in 2021, fewer than 13% will do so primarily because of COVID-19 safety concerns.
However, that isn’t to say that many moves weren’t enabled by changes brought about by the virus.
Over 18% of respondents in our survey reported that they were able to move specifically because of increased flexibility at work, presumptively due to COVID-19 and the wave of remote work arrangements it unleashed upon the world.
Ultimately, for people who plan to move in 2021, the majority said they will do so in order to lower their cost of living (47%). The next most popular reason to move was to be closer to family (30%).
Home Ownership Up 11% Among Movers in 2020 and 2021
As moves are on the rise in both 2020 and 2021, so is new and future homeownership among the movers we surveyed.
In our survey, we asked about movers’ living situations before and after their move. About 43% said they owned their previous home (or current home, if they’re planning to move). But, more than 54% said they now own their new home (or will own their home after moving).
This represents a full 11-point uptick in homeownership among our survey respondents.
About 49% of respondents said they were previously renting (or currently renting, if they’re planning to move in the future), compared with just 40% who said that they are now renting (or will be renting after moving). That’s a drop of 9%.
The remaining respondents — about 8% — said they had a living arrangement with friends or family where they were not paying. That number dropped to 6% when asked about their current or future living arrangements after moving. (This accounts for the 2% discrepancy between the rise in homeownership versus the decline in renting.)
This aligns as expected with both the percentage of Americans who are moving away from larger cities as well as the biggest factors that are influencing the homes they decided to move into — the details of which we’ll explore over the next few sections.
Four in Ten Movers From Big Cities Are Relocating to Somewhere Smaller
Ever since the reality set in that the impact of the pandemic would last months instead of weeks, the assumption became that America’s largest cities would see some level of out-migration.
Our survey proved that assumption, finding that about 40% of movers living in “Large Cities” say they’ve moved or will be moving to another type of community — suburban, small town, or rural.
Nearly 20% of respondents were moving because of newly-instilled remote arrangements at their workplaces.
Moving away from larger cities often also fulfills what Americans said was their biggest reason for moving: A lower cost of living (see “Why Are You Moving in 2021?” chart above). This lower overall cost of living helps to achieve what our respondents said was the leading priority when it came to choosing a new home — space.
Movers Prioritize More Space, Inside and Out
Half of respondents who plan to move in 2021 said their new place will have more space. In comparison, 28% said they’d be moving somewhere with less space and 22% said their home would remain the same size.
More space — from outside to the kitchen to the garage — was the most important factor for respondents when choosing a new home.
Why do Americans want more space? Aside from needing more areas for storage, they also expressed interest in increasing the space they had to work from home, educate their children from home, and exercise from home — all activities that the 2019 coronavirus has made much safer to do in the comfort of our own homes.
The Bright Side: People Are Excited to Interact With Their New Communities
As soon as COVID-19 is contained, 46% of respondents said they planned to get even more involved in local events than they were in their old communities. Nearly 40% reported that they were looking forward to participating in more local volunteer opportunities than they had in their previous neighborhoods.
But for our most heartwarming finding of all, 72% of Americans said they were looking forward to meeting and getting to know their neighbors better once it was safe to do so.
In a year that gave us more reasons than ever to hide away from our neighbors, it’s uplifting to see that hope and resilience are still alive in American and that so many people are excited to get back out and do great things in their communities as soon as they have the chance.
Our Survey Methodology
The Neighbor 2020 – 2021 American Migration Report surveyed 1,006 U.S.-based adults in November 2020 via Pollfish.com.
Respondents were about 59% female and 41% male. In addition, 7% were aged 18-24, 36% were aged 25-34, 35% were aged 35-44, 13% were aged 45-54, and 9% were over the age of 54.
Please note that survey results were stratified, totals may not add to 100% due to rounding, and some questions allowed respondents to choose multiple answers. We decided to disqualify answers from respondents who moved for college, because many of their housing choices are outside of their control.