What Percentage of Americans Really Move Each Year

Over the past quarter century I’ve heard dozens of different statistics about the percentage of people that move every year. These guesstimates have varied from a low of 10% to a high of 25%. There seems to be a similar amount of confusion about the distance of moves and the variations by age and gender. As the creators of the ‘A Moving Experience’ mailing list, we’re consistently asked these questions.

Using the accurate information provided by the U. S. Census Bureau, let’s clear up the confusion and misinformation. Out of a total population of 282,556,000 people, 40,093,000 moved. That’s an overall percentage of 14.19% per annum.

These 40+million people break down as follows:

23,468,000 moved within the same county,
7,728,000 moved to a different county within the same state,
7,628,000 moved to a different state, and
1,269,000 moved to a different country.

The percentage of population that moves, when broken down by age, varies considerably – from a low of 1.55% to a high of 17.84%. Not only does the number of moves vary by age, so does the distance of the move.

Around 4% of those aged 65+ will move to a new county, yet approximately 30% of those aged 20-29 will move to a new county. The following chart shows the percentage of moves by each age group, and in parenthesis the percentage of those moves that were within the same county:

Total population: 14.19% (58%)

1-4 years 13.63% (63%)
5-9 years 9.82% (66%)
10-14 years 8.16% (62%)
15-17 years 7.06% (59%)
18-19 years 0.63% (59%)
20-24 years 17.84% (59%)
25-29 years 16.08% (57%)
30-34 years 11.65% (59%)
35-39 years 8.97% (59%)
40-44 years 6.69% (59%)
45-49 years 5.37% (58%)
50-54 years 4.25% (54%)
55-59 years 3.56% (52%)
60-61 years 3.16% (48%)
62-64 years 2.27% (42%)
65-69 years 2.40% (53%)
70-74 years 1.72% (43%)
75-79 years 1.80% (49%)
80-84 years 1.55% (40%)
85+ years 2.34% (65%)

Because there are so many Americans, even a small percentage represents a large quantity of people. If you consider a move outside of the same county a “long-distance” move – there are 17-million annual long-distance moves, with over a million of these moves outside the country.

The major new move activity takes place within the 18-34 year olds, with people in their 20’s representing the highest concentration. Once people reach their 50’s, their move rate is minimal. And in people over the age of 70, the move percentages are below 2% per annum.

Couples with young children are the most likely to move a long distance. As people get older, the percentage that move decreases pretty consistently. There are two exceptions to this trend. When people reach age 65, there is an increase in both the percentage of moves, and the distance of the move, this is likely due to retirement. When people reach age 85+, there is an increase in the percentage of moves, and 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% of females will move each year, yet only 28% of males. By the age of 30-34, the percentages are almost identical: 20.3 for females and 19.3 for males. And by age 40 this reverses, with 11.28% for females and 12.26% 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% of the people who move do not report their new address to the Postal Service, the compiler of the National Change Of Address (NCOA) file. Because of narrow restrictions regarding the use of the NCOA file, and the non-reported moves, that list updating process is probably only catching 50% of the new moves. Avrick Direct, as well as many other “new move” list owners, make their historical list available for list cleaning, an important part of list maintenance. Some of the ‘new move’ lists on the market, such as ‘A Moving Experience’ combine multiple sources, and can be used to identify a majority of new movers.