How Many People Move Each Year?

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Over the past quarter century I've heard dozens of statistics about the percentage of people who move every year. These guesstimates vary from 10 percent to 25 percent. There seems to be similar confusion about the distance of moves and the variations by age and gender.


Using information provided by the U.S. Census Bureau, let's clear up the confusion. Of a population of 282,556,000 people, 40,093,000 moved. That's an overall percentage of 14.19 percent annually.


These 40-plus-million people break down as follows: 23,468,000 moved within the same county; 7,728,000 moved to a different county in the same state; 7,628,000 moved to a different state; and 1,269,000 moved to another country.


The percentage of people moving, when broken down by age, varies considerably: from 1.55 percent (80-84 age group) to 17.84 percent (20-24 age group). Not only does the number of moves vary by age, so does the distance of the move.


Around 4 percent of those over the age of 65 will move to a new county, yet about 30 percent of those aged 20-29 will move to a new county.


Because there are so many Americans, even a small percentage represents a large quantity of people. If you consider a move outside of the county a "long-distance" move, there are 17 million annual long-distance moves, with more than 1 million outside the country.


The major new move activity takes place within the 18-34 year olds, with people in their 20s representing the highest concentration. Once people reach their 50s, their move rate is minimal. And for people older than 70, the move percentages are below 2 annually.


Couples with young children are the most likely to move a long distance. As people age, the percentage who move decreases consistently. There are two exceptions to this trend. When people reach 65, there is an increase in both the percentage of moves and the distance. This is likely due to retirement. When people reach age 85-plus, there is an increase in the percentage of moves but a decrease in the distance of the move. This is possibly due to a move to an assisted living facility.


There is also a difference between the sexes. In the 20-24 age group, 32 percent of females will move each year, yet only 28 percent of males. By ages 30-34, the percentages are almost identical: 20.3 for females and 19.3 for males. By age 40 it's 11.28 percent for females and 12.26 percent for males.


It is critical for a list owner to understand these statistics. You can see how quickly a mailing list becomes stale. Nearly 33 percent of people who move do not report their new address to the U.S. Postal Service, the compiler of the National Change of Address file. Because of narrow restrictions regarding the use of the NCOA file, and the unreported moves, that list updating process probably catches only 50 percent of the new moves.


Some of the "new move" lists on the market combine multiple sources and can be used to identify most new movers.


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