Dec 31, 2019 - Economy

Affordability is driving Americans' decisions on where to live

Data: Prudential; Note: ±3.0 margin of error; Chart: Axios Visuals
Data: Prudential; Note: ±3.0 margin of error; Chart: Axios Visuals

Most American workers place affordability above jobs on the priority list when determining where to live, according to Prudential's Pulse of the American Worker survey conducted in November by Morning Consult.

Why it matters: The high cost of living in job-rich centers holds people back from looking for new opportunities there.

Nearly half of those surveyed said affordability and proximity to family and friends were the most important factors, while only 15% listed job opportunities as a primary reason. (Note: The survey has a 3% margin of error.)

  • Although 6 in 10 people are willing to relocate for a new job, 88% wouldn’t commute more than an hour, even for their dream job.
  • The majority of Americans surveyed said they've lived in their community for more than 15 years.
  • Only 23% said they'd relocated for their current job.

Blue-collar and hourly wage workers tend to have deep networks of friends and families that tie them to a particular community and keep them from leaving, even if higher-paying opportunities are elsewhere.

  • "It struck me how locally anchored people were," said Molly Kinder, a fellow at Brookings Institution's Metropolitan Policy Center, whose recent research interviewed 40 workers including those employed in grocery stores, fast food and clerical jobs.
  • "We have this notion that all people need is a platform online that tells them where a job is available," she said. "But for the lower-income population we talked to, the way people knew about or had access to jobs is through a friend or family."

Occupational licensing requirements can also discourage crossing state borders, Kinder noted.

What to watch: The cities projected to have the fastest-growing populations over the next five years include Austin, Dallas-Ft. Worth, Orlando and Charlotte, per an analysis by the Urban Land Institute.

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