America the Mobile: not anchored to just one place

Source: Scripps Howard News Service
Date: July 13, 2004

Americans, among the world's most mobile people, are generally happy with their current homes. But they also overwhelmingly would consider moving to new cities and towns if opportunities arose.

A national poll of 1,007 adult residents of the United States conducted by Scripps Howard News Service and Ohio University found that where Americans would like to live largely depends on life experiences and background.

Liberals are nearly twice as likely to look at New York City and other Northern urban areas as attractive places to live than are political conservatives, for example. Republicans tend to look more favorably at Southern and Western towns and cities than do Democrats.

Young adults, especially people without children, are significantly more likely to consider many different places as possible future homes than do older people with families.

"Young people fresh out of college are simply more footloose. They have much less holding them back, so they are willing to pack up and move," said Bert Sperling, co-author of a new book "Cities Ranked and Rated."

Unlike baby boomers and previous generations, the so-called "X" and "Y" generations are less likely to relocate in quest of a specific job or to follow a career path. "Young people are more likely to move somewhere they think is attractive and assume that, when it comes to employment, something will turn up," Sperling said.

Participants in the poll were asked, "How much do you like the community where you now live and would you be willing to live in other communities?"

Fifty-eight percent said they are "very happy" with their current homes, 32 percent were "somewhat happy" and 10 percent said they were "somewhat unhappy" or "very unhappy" with their current communities.

The poll also found that people are more likely to be satisfied with their communities as they get older. Married people, especially couples with children, were significantly happier with their community than were singles.

Whites, well educated people and people from affluent households were significantly more satisfied with their communities than were less well-educated people, those earning less than $25,000 a year and minorities.

Generally, however, a majority of Americans from all walks of life are satisfied with where they are living.

This relatively high rate of satisfaction is starting to show up in Census Bureau reports. Forty million U.S. residents moved from 2002 to 2003, down from 41 million who relocated the year before.

"The moving rates have declined slightly over the past decade, from 17 percent in 1994 to 14 percent in 2003," said census statistician Jason Schachter. "This moving rate is among the lowest rate found since (the census) began collecting this sort of data."

Yet most Americans also report they have relocated to new states at least once in their lives and would consider moving to new cities if the opportunity arose. Forty percent of adults in the survey have always lived in the same state.

The survey cited 26 communities in America, some large and well-known, others small and often unheard of. Adults in the survey said "yes" to an average of more than eight of these places as prospective new homes. Only 10 percent refused to consider any of the offered communities.

"It's probably a matter of where you grew up, what you are used to," said Sperling. "Some people only want to live in the South. Others say no to entire regions, probably because they have a lot of misconceptions."

The most popular among the communities included in the poll were Denver and Boulder, Colo.; Naples and Vero Beach, Fla.; and Knoxville, Tenn. Least popular were Detroit, several small Texas communities and New York City.

The popularity of each community varied considerably among different kinds of people. Forty-one percent of self-described "very liberal" people said they would consider living in New York, compared to only 21 percent of "very conservative" folk.

The survey was conducted at the Scripps Survey Research Center at Ohio University June 20-28 among 1,007 adult residents living in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The poll was funded by a grant from the Scripps Foundation.

The margin of error is 4 percentage points.