One common narrative about the changing migration patterns of the last year is that fear of the coronavirus and new remote work models led people to move to greener vistas. However, a new survey from the Pew Research Center shows that financial stress drove most decisions to relocate, especially as the pandemic wore on.
In November, a third of respondents in the Pew survey said that financial reasons motivated their decision to move. Among this group, 17% of respondents cited job loss as the financial pain point, while 15% said that the financial pain point was something other than job loss. This is a significant increase from June when only 18% of respondents cited financial pressures as the reason for their move.
The trend was even more notable among those who moved with another adult. When isolating for this category, 36% of people who moved with another person cited financial reasons as the main motivator to move. This suggests that families faced more significant affordability challenges during the pandemic than single adults.
A high risk of contracting the coronavirus and moving to be closer to a family member also topped the list as reasons why some people decided to move, 14% and 17% respectively. College students moving due to campus closures was also among the most common reasons for migration to a new market, according to the survey.
Most migrants seem to be renting for the short term. In the survey, 14% of respondents said that they rented a home for the short-term, and 16% said that they rented a new home “for this period,” implying that they would reconsider the move following the end of the pandemic. Only 16% of respondents said they rented a new home on a long-term basis.
But the definition of long-term versus short-term is becoming blurred as we approach the year-mark of the pandemic. At this point, most migrants have not returned to their previous market, according to the survey. The research also shows that people are getting comfortable in their new market. According to Pew, 69% of respondents said they reside in a different home than where they lived initially when they moved. Of those surveyed, 40% are in a different community and 29% are living in the same community where they lived before but in a different home.
This trend isn’t new. Many people began migrating out of major metropolitan markets due to financial concerns prior to the pandemic. The events of 2020 only accelerated those migration patterns, and the sunbelt has been the favored region for movers.