Do you think Americans are more mobile than ever before? Most people seem to. In fact, the mobility of contemporary life seems so self-evident that in many articles, claims about it are not even backed by references.
When I was researching How We Live Now: Redefining Home and Family in the 21st Century, I interviewed people who lived contentedly, all their lives, in the town where they grew up. A few others left briefly, but did not go far and ultimately returned for good.
For all of the different lifespaces that I got to see during my travels for the book, I paired the life stories from my interviews with historical perspectives. How did the individual life experiences fit in with the broader historical and sociological context?
Here are 6 fun facts I learned about mobility. (References are in How We Live Now.)
- American society has often been described as increasingly mobile, but that’s a myth. Sociologist Claude Fischer noted that “the great majority of Americans were more settled at the end of the twentieth century than at its middle, and indeed, probably more settled than at any earlier time in American history.”
- Data that have been gathered since 1948 showed that mobility has decreased steadily, reaching an all-time low in 2011, when only 11.6% of Americans had moved within the past year.
- Nearly 40% of American adults have never left their hometown and 57% have never lived outside the state where they were born.
- Most moves are short distances. Fewer than 2% are out-of-state moves.
- The people who are most likely to be helpful to their relatives (doing errands, offering rides, helping with childcare and household chores) are those who are less well-off financially. They are also the ones most likely to live near kin.
- A study of leaving home in 15 nations found that the grown children who stayed in their parents’ home the longest tended to stay closest to them geographically once they did move out. (They tended to be emotionally closer, too.)
Home sweet home sign photo available from Shutterstock