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Expand chart
Data: U.S. Census Bureau; Chart: Harry Stevens/Axios

The U.S. mobility rate dropped again to a new low in 2017, with just 10.1% of Americans moving homes, according to new data from the Census Bureau.

Why it matters: Economic opportunity isn't enough to get people moving anymore. And less mobility could mean the wealthy areas of the U.S. continue to accumulate wealth, while the poorer areas will remain poor because people are less likely to move for better jobs and companies are less likely to move for cheaper labor.

"It's surprising because we have kind of a booming economy, and it's a time you would think mobility would start picking up."
— William Frey, demographer for the Brookings Institution

The big picture: Mobility rates have been falling more or less steadily since the 1980s. The trend can be explained partly by the aging U.S. population, since older people tend to move around less, Lawrence Yun, chief economist and senior vice president of research at the National Association of Realtors, told Axios.The surprise, he said, is that mobility trends have continued to fall over the past few years, given the recovering and even booming economy.

  • The biggest decline has been in the share of Americans moving within the same county, falling by 2.4 percentage points since 2005. However, it remains the most common kind of move.
  • Millennials could also be playing a role in the more recent downturns, according to Frey. 25-34 year olds are far more likely than past generations to live with their parents and less likely to own homes or move around. The decline in mobility rates has occurred across all age groups, however.
  • Geographical trends have remained the same, with high migration toward the Sun Belt and more immigrants leaving than arriving in the Northeast.

The impact:

  • The housing sector suffers most from the falling mobility, Yun said, as there are far fewer home sales when people aren't moving.
  • It could also hurt infrastructure, since local governments could have less incentive to improve it if people aren't moving away to areas with better economic opportunity. "If there's greater mobility, there would be more competition," Yun said.

The bottom line: "Three years ago, I thought it would be a low point and I thought we would turn the corner," Yun said. We haven't — and it's clear that we don't know all the reasons yet.

Go deeper

The pandemic made our workweeks longer

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

The average American's workweek has gotten 10% longer during the pandemic, according to a new Microsoft study published in Nature Human Behaviour.

Why it matters: These longer hours are a key part of the pandemic-induced crisis of burnout at U.S. firms — and workers are quitting in droves.

Mike Allen, author of AM
45 mins ago - Economy & Business

Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky to herald "travel revolution"

Expand chart
Data: TSA. Chart: Jared Whalen/Axios

Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky will argue this week that the world is undergoing a "travel revolution," in which some parts of the industry stay shrunk but the sector ultimately comes back "bigger than ever."

Why it matters: Chesky, who faced the abyss when the world shut down last year, foresees a significant shift in how people move around, with more intentional gatherings of family, friends and colleagues — even if routine business travel is never what it once was.

Managing traffic in the skies is becoming a lot harder

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Planes used to be the only aircraft crisscrossing the sky. Now there are drones, more frequent rocket ships and — soon — flying taxis, elbowing their way into the National Airspace System.

Why it matters: Managing the congestion up above is becoming an urgent mission for America's traffic cops in the sky. While the Federal Aviation Administration has a stellar safety record when it comes to commercial aviation, its challenge is infinitely more complex today.